Published in The Sunday Gleaner on September 23:
"Music and children are my passion," says Andrea Curtis, a visionary
whose dream is to operate an early-childhood institution where children
learn about music. While that dream is yet to be realised, Curtis
set wheels in motion with the establishment in 2003 of Pianoprep.
said, "The reason Pianoprep was birthed was so that talented children
from all echelons of society could be given exposure to playing an
instrument, voice training, understanding the art of music and where it
is coming from." She believes that the empowerment children get from
Pianoprep enables them to have "big power" to be the change they want to
see, and even help with the realisation of Jamaica's Vision 2030.
CHILD A MUSICIAN
"At heart, I'm a Jamaican girl," quips Curtis
with a smile. "And I believe that every child is a musician, especially
in Jamaica. We are naturally rhythmical - look at even the way we sing
the multiplication tables. Music is just part of us."
Pianoprep, she teaches children how to play the piano, preparing them
for the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music
(ABRSM) examinations and, in the process, instilling within them a deep
love and passion for music, country and self.
As a requirement of
the programme, every child must learn to play the Jamaican anthem.
putting a little fun in the mix, she has developed a "last lick"
culture, where children had better learn to outrun her before she plants
one of her famous last licks on them when they are leaving her home,
which also doubles as her teaching studio.
Her reason for doing
this, Curtis says, is to help with the continuation of some
time-honoured Jamaican traditions. She says many of the children she has
tutored over her years were unaware of what a "last lick" was before
they met her.
And does it make a difference?
"We still do
the last lick," says Kevah Lyn, a Trinidadian-Canadian mother of two who
now resides in Jamaica. Both her children attended Pianoprep: Victoria
began when she was six years old and Nicholas at five. "Andrea does more
than music, she also feeds the soul. She brings herself down to the
kids' level and is playful ... it's real good."
whose two children - Aimi (five) and Zuri (six) - attended this year's
Pianoprep Summer Camp, agrees. "I thought it was a well-run camp. I like
the idea of instruments that they used with their hands, the
creativity, the 'oboephone' - the combination of the saxophone and the
oboe. I like that they used boxes to think outside the box, the rewards
system, the 'last lick' culture. It was quite fun, full, substantial."
mentioned that Zuri cried after her first day of camp, when she had a
difficult time learning to play the guitar, but "she went back and she
got it. She played and sang at the closing recital. That was a proud
daddy moment for me".
Josiah Rainford, one of Curtis' first
students, had this to say to his 'Auntie Andrea': "You made me like
piano, leading to guitar and drums. Thanks to you, I now play piano in
church." He also did the ABRSM Grade One exam and passed with a merit.
important aspect of Curtis' programme is self-development. Some of the
highlights of her Pianoprep journey this year include: a two-year-old
who still sings the Japanese song taught at camp, watching one of her
youth helpers transform from being stern and lackadaisical to
industrious, helpful and playful.
Curtis has her own share of
challenges - financial support for her summer camps being the major
But this is not going to stop her. "Not possible," the
god-fearing Christian replies. "Pianoprep will be able to go through and
grow through with a perpetual relevance despite the inevitable changes,
while solidly holding to its core values, which makes it Pianoprep."