- Jamaica’s young aspiring musicians, who have benefitted from the skills and expertise of renowned Spanish saxophonist and professor, Ángel Soria Díaz, are relishing the experience in improving their musical knowledge and the development of their craft.
- Professor Díaz, who lectures at the Spanish Music Conservatory in Salamanca, has played in numerous orchestras and at some of the most noted contemporary music festivals in France, Italy, Scotland, Mexico, Switzerland, and Spain.
- The Embassy of Spain was instrumental in bringing him to the island as part of its cultural programme in Jamaica.
Jamaica’s young aspiring musicians, who have benefitted from the skills and expertise of renowned Spanish saxophonist and professor, Ángel Soria Díaz, are relishing the experience in improving their musical knowledge and the development of their craft.
Professor Díaz, who lectures at the Spanish Music Conservatory in Salamanca, has played in numerous orchestras and at some of the most noted contemporary music festivals in France, Italy, Scotland, Mexico, Switzerland, and Spain.
The Embassy of Spain was instrumental in bringing him to the island as part of its cultural programme in Jamaica.
Students and staff at the Alpha Institute for Boys in Kingston, who benefitted from a series of music workshops which he conducted, welcomed the highly interactive engagement.
Professor Díaz’s visit, his first to the island and Caribbean, also saw him conducting workshops for members of the National Youth Orchestra of Jamaica (NYOJ), by facilitating exposure to classical music education.
In addition, he offered a Masterclass at the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts (EMCVPA), which was well attended by students and persons from the wider society.
At Alpha, Professor Díaz imparted basic techniques associated with rhythm, scales, and the overall reading of musical scores (sheet music) to the 40 young men enrolled in the institute’s music programme.
He tells JIS News that while the sessions incorporated the classical music genre, which most of them were unfamiliar with, they were nonetheless quite receptive. “I think they learnt much,” he says.
In commending the students’ musical abilities, noting that some play by ear, Professor Díaz emphasises that “it is (also) important that they are able to read music.”
“They were receptive of the concept of reading the scores… (because) they (understand) that (it) is important for them.
“They have established the link between listening and reading… (and), with time (and practice), I think they will be able to play in scores without any problem,” he adds.
For two of the students, Sajay Watson and Charles Biggs, both 18, the experience was “memorable.”
Sajay, who also plays the saxophone, tells JIS News that working with Professor Díaz was “really awesome,” as he “taught me some very interesting things that I never knew before.”
Additionally, he says Professor Díaz also instilled in him a renewed appreciation of the importance of continuous practice in order to perfect his craft. “It’s not going to be easy to reach the level he has…but I intend to practise very hard to get there…because practice makes perfect,” he states.
Sajay, who plans to enrol at Edna Manley College, is optimistic that this approach will greatly assist in advancing his musical development upon completing his studies.
Charles, who aspires to become a gospel recording artiste, believes that the workshops were quite useful.
“Professor Díaz taught us that to be successful at what we do will require continuous hard work and training, dedication, determination, and commitment, among other things…. (and) that is good advice. I intend to establish my reputation by working at my craft (keyboard and voice) to become better at what I do,” he states.
Alpha’s Administrator, Margaret Little Wilson, says the staff and students were elated to have been considered for participation in the recent activities.
“It’s always good to expose the boys to different musical and cultural art forms…so having Ángel was great. The boys were intrigued…they were quite fascinated…and hearing the questions that they asked him,…and seeing how they responsed to him…and how he connected with them…was quite thrilling. This engagement has, indeed, made a difference in the lives of our boys,” she tells JIS News.
Mrs. Little Wilson expresses gratitude to the Embassy “for providing this great opportunity for our boys.”
For his part, Alpha’s Special Projects Director, Joshua Chamberlain, tells JIS News that it was an “absolute pleasure” for the institute to have had Professor Díaz conduct the workshops.
In highlighting the seamless interaction between the highly acclaimed saxophonist and the students, Mr. Chamberlain notes that “I saw Ángel work directly with a student…and with the group…and saw them do things I didn’t think were possible.”
“The experience is like a gift that keeps on giving. So, all that they have been taught, I am sure, are things that they will take with them after they have graduated from the Alpha Institute,” he adds.
The Embassy’s Deputy Head of Mission in charge of Cultural Affairs, Carmen Rives, tells JIS News that Professor Díaz’ visit followed talks involving herself, Spanish-Jamaican Foundation (SJF) General Manager, Karen Donaldson, and Mr. Chamberlain, who had expressed an interest in having a saxophonist brought in to work with the students.
Ms. Rives says based on the classical music expertise of Professor Díaz, “we thought the NYOJ could also benefit from his visit”, and included the group in the itinerary.
Additionally, she says a decision was also taken to stage the public masterclass at Edna Manley College.
Ms. Rives says she was impressed with the extent of interaction, particularly at Alpha, noting that “it was like magic happening.”
“The boys were mesmerised…because he plays contemporary music, and that’s different from what they are accustomed to. So, it was just great to see the various expressions on their faces…the way they smiled… (and) the way they looked when he played….they were, indeed, very receptive,” she adds.
Ms. Rives expresses the hope that Professor Díaz will share his experiences in Jamaica with his students in Spain, and that this will serve to further strengthen the cultural and diplomatic relations shared by the countries.
For her part, Mrs. Donaldson says the engagement with Alpha was “tremendous”, noting that “just seeing the students coming to life around Ángel…you could feel the energy and excitement resonating.”
She tells JIS News that the Embassy and the SJF remain committed to providing opportunities for Jamaicans, particularly those with the potential for achieving greatness, and further deepen cultural exchange.
Facilitating Professor Díaz’ visit was among the final engagements for late Spanish Ambassador to Jamaica, His Excellency Aníbal Jiménez Abascal, who also served as President for the SJF.
The visit underlined his involvement in promoting social and cultural cooperation between both countries.