By Lystra J. Lashley
Special To CWNN
CaribWorldNews, WASHINGTON, D.C., Weds. Dec. 16, 2009: What would happen if one engages the finest, young steelpan musicians to perform a Christmas program in a wide range of musical genres? They would `steel` the show. The Cultural Academy for Excellence (CAFÉ) of Mitchellville, Maryland made that possible on Saturday evening, Dec. 12th.
The program began with a prelude by The Positive Vibrations Youth Steel Orchestra, an award winning steel orchestra. It was followed by The Adult Group Ensemble, the Rhythm Runners (ages 14 and under) and the Rhythm Starters (ages 10 and under): all from CAFÉ. The music was uplifting and exciting. It provided enriching musical renditions of traditional Christmas and classical music that were well received by a very appreciative and musically rich audience.
It was hard not to tap your feet or sway while the groups performed such songs as, `Rondo Alla Turca,` `Minuet,` `Total Praise,` `Joy to the World,` `Jingle Bells,` `Some Day at Christmas` and many, many more.
Although the weather was cold outside, the warmth of the Caribbean filled the air inside the First United Methodist Church Sanctuary in Hyattsville, Maryland. The audiences enjoyed the musical Christmas Concert of the steelpan instrument that so eloquently revealed its diversity and versatility. This 20th century instrument invented in the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago is an internationally recognized instrument that represents voices of a musical ensemble or orchestra.
Josceline Stewart-Robinson, in her opening remarks, commented, "It is a great God-given gift what these young people have achieved musically, and should really be celebrated at Christmas. They are to be praised." Stewart-Robinson is a resident of Adelphi, Maryland, and a former high school principal in Trinidad and Tobago. She is currently a language arts tutor at CAFÉ.
Stewart-Robinson further stated, `I`m thankful to be part of this organization. I want to thank the tutors, volunteers and parents, who continue to make a difference in these young peoples’ lives. I also must thank Lorna Green, executive director and founder, for making her dream a reality.
The CAFE is a not-for-profit organization that provides a dual learning environment – academic tutoring and music instruction on the steel pan – for young people between the ages of 6 and 18. The academic component provides homework assistance, school assessment and SAT preparation. The music program consists of music theory, practical musicianship and aural skills training. Fifty-three percent of CAFÉs students maintain a grade-point average of B or better and 35 percent are on their schools honor roll.