For the love of music - Youngsters get lessons through Food for the Poor
At age 21, Michael Brown is a senior member and leader of the Food for the Poor (FFP) band. He says he has been playing music since he was five. He was introduced to the band through his church in Spanish Town, and says he loves "anything that is to do with music".
Once a month, between 30 and 35 teenagers gather at Food for the Poor's Ellerslie Pen headquarters in St Catherine for rehearsals, under the watchful eye of band director Jeffrey Brown.
Inside the practice room, a six-piece band is rehearsing a medley of reggae, pop and standards such as Blue Moon. Watching them is Oswald Scott, a veteran musician and past student of Alpha Boys' School, who plays French horn and cornet. He volunteers each month, advises the band members, and makes sure they are learning to read music properly. All nine pieces performed by the band have already qualified for the parish finals of the Jamaica Cultural Development Commission Performing Arts competition.
Two young women, 15-year-old Brittany Thomas (clarinet, alto saxophone) and her friend, 18-year-old Mickayle Dyer (alto saxophone), have been band members for the past two years. They believe playing in the band has helped them with their schoolwork. "You focus on more details, and you get to concentrate better," says Brittany.