St Catherine High gets performing arts boost

The Culture, Health, Arts, Sports and Education Fund (CHASE) has partnered with St Catherine High School to construct a performing arts centre by contributing $53.9 million for phase one of the project.

The centre is said to seat over 800 patrons and is intended to serve the school as well as the wider Spanish Town area, which is currently without a proper venue for theatrical presentations.

Principal Marlon Campbell said, at Friday’s ground-breaking ceremony, that the project was a “long time coming”.

“Finally, we are here. I remember the spirited evening meetings with CHASE. The many conversations, the visions, the uncertainties. What we could get done and what we could not get done. There were a plethora of ideas for the model and proposed names for the building and where it should be placed,” Campbell stated.

Thanking the school’s alumni association and Supreme Ventures for their donation of $15 million and $5 million, respectively, Campbell added, “We are called to remember the Vice- Principal Kenneth Emmanuel Neil, who started the performing arts choir and was ably supported by Principal Joan Mills when she took office. He used the performing arts as a tool to develop impressionable minds, to guide the students along the right path so that they will become creative, generous, and hard-working. This discipline was caught and embraced by many, including second generation performers. The performing arts at St Catherine High School became a movement.”

He also said that St Catherine High School had an impressive reputation for excellent musicals and dramatic presentations, as well as developing well-known performers, such as Spice, Jermaine Edwards, and Chronixx.

Campbell confirmed that the building was important, because “whenever bright minds are housed in spaces that are conducive to learning and exploration they will learn and explore”.

Adding that in April 2019 the ribbon to a new chemistry lab was cut by Member of Parliament and alumni Juliet Holness, and two years after, student Amoya Parker was not only the first in chemistry in Jamaica, but the first in the entire Caribbean, Campbell stated, “It speaks to the power of the right environment. There is no doubt in my mind that this space will be used to enhance the talents that we have. I am sure we will excel even in the future.”

Minister of Education, Youth and Information Fayval Williams, in her presentation, explained the importance of a performing arts building on young minds.

“As you know, any expansion of facilities on a school’s campus is important as it addresses crucial needs. Of course, the importance of the performing arts in education cannot be overemphasised. Numerous studies have shown that people involved in performing arts are able to engage the mind, emotion, and bodies in ways that allow them to properly flow through real-life situations with empathy, understanding, with emotional intelligence and confidence, as well as to communicate with their varied counterparts,” the minister said, as she explained that this will help to equip the students with the necessary skills to navigate life as it develops their confidence and communication skills.

Also present at the ceremony was Prime Minister Andrew Holness, a past student, who stated that too often the performing arts are treated as extra-curricular activities, when it should be mainstream in the curriculum.

In addition, Holness said that Jamaicans need to “reflect on ourselves, and we have to be saying to ourselves, ‘How are we going to use our natural talents, our culture, our music, art, entertainment? How are we going to use these gifts to create industries that can give us the income and the employment that will lift our households out of poverty?”

Continuing, he asked how can the country use the Jamaican culture to promote science, mathematics, technology, and engineering for the betterment of the country.

“I am not supporting this performing arts centre for fun or entertainment. This is about Jamaica’s growth and development. This is about business, that is what it is about. We must create the talent pool that creates the content that the world will pay for. We have it right here,” the prime minister said.

Deputy Head Boy Kodesh Doiley, who is a member of the school’s performing arts group, said the building means a lot to him, because this school is where he recognised his true talent.

“This building means a lot to me because having come into this institution from grade seven, this is where I’ve come to recognise my true potential and being able to exercise my true talent here in the performing arts. And so, I do believe this performing arts centre will allow students and other persons to showcase their talent and just be who they are freely and just be a representative of the school and to the wider Caribbean,” the 18-year-old said.

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