CHARLES KONG SOO
"Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything.”—Plato
Seventeen-year-old T&T Youth Philharmonic (TTYP) cello soloist Chelsea Fensom has always been an "A" student at St Joseph Convent (SJC) Port-of-Spain.
The Form Five student also plays five other musical instruments and is heavily involved in her school’s extra-curricular activities including a member of the choir, captain of the steel orchestra, the SJC and CIC combined choir, the SJC triathlon team and the school’s UNESCO team to name a few.
While most children spent their Easter holidays at the malls, shopping, watching movies or at the beach, besides music, Fensom had to forego these extra-curricular activities as she is preparing to sit the FTCL (Fellowship of Trinity College, London), Level 7 Fellowship Certificate of Diploma Music "Cello" and her CSEC examinations in May.
She did make the time earlier this year to play with Nutrien Silver Stars Steel Orchestra at the Panorama finals on March 2, where the band placed eighth; give a cello performance at SJC’s fund-raising concert Believe: The Songs of Hope, at the Church of the Assumption in Maraval, on April 14 to raise funds for the school choir to subsidise travel and accommodation expenses to perform abroad at Disney World in July; participated in TTYP’s recital See our Stars Shine on April 7 for students getting ready for their music exams where she performed her FTCL exam test piece Haydn's Concerto No 2 in D Major for cello and orchestra; and performed 10,000 Reasons and Via Dolorosa on the cello at Good Friday mass at St Benedict’s Catholic Church, La Romaine.
Her regimen during the Easter holidays consisted of travelling from her home in St James for lessons at the St Augustine Community College, two hours of studying after lessons in the morning at NALIS, Port-of-Spain, relax for an hour after reaching home, then switching to studying the cello every day and unwind playing games on her cellphone.
She spent Good Friday home with family—sister Celeste, 23, who plays the oboe with the TTYP, mother, Sharmin and father, Carlos—making hot cross buns.
A dancer with the Noble Douglas Dance Company, she was excited about the Avengers: Endgame movie and Us in cinema having watched the Marvel universe prequels at home on DVD and has never watched an episode of Game of Thrones.
Fensom said "It’s just been lessons and practising for CSEC exams. I’m doing nine subjects, Maths, English, Literature, French, Spanish, Biology, Physics, Chemistry and Add Maths." Literature exam was on May 8 and music exam the following day.
"I’ve been playing the cello for seven years, violin ten years, pan ten years, piano three years, French horn for less than a year and the cuatro for three years.
"I started playing the violin at the age of seven and was introduced to the cello three years later by Mr Kenneth Listhrop, the founder and music director of the T&T Youth Philharmonic (TTYP).
"Since then I’ve pursued practical exams in both instruments together, starting from grade five from the Royal School of Music London."
She was awarded a Grade 8 Merit in violin and a Grade 8 Distinction in cello achieving the highest graded mark in the history of the TTYP for a Grade 8 student.
Fensom, a member of the T&T Aquatics Swimming Club, said Listhrop saw that she was musically gifted and academically strong and he encouraged her to sign up for the Associate of Trinity College, London in Cello (ATCL Certificate of Diploma).
She received the highest award of distinction in that exam making her the first and youngest person to achieve an ATCL (Level Four) Certificate of Diploma Music "Cello" in T&T and the English speaking Caribbean at the age of 15 in 2017.
When Fensom received her music diploma at 15, she was considered a professional and could not enter Music Festivals.
She then signed up for the LTCL (level 6 ) Licentiate Certificate of Diploma Music "Cello" in 2018 in which she also passed.
Fensom also teaches cello and violin but has cut back because of her CSEC and music exams.
She said a good cello costs $15,000, she has to replace the strings on her cello which cost US $200 twice a year and the bow costs between US $300-$400.
After completing Form Six, Fensom is hoping to get a scholarship because she wants to further herself in music and be like British cellist Jacqueline du Pré or Chinese-American cellist Yo-Yo Ma.
She said she would jump at the opportunity to play with the world-renowned cellist Ma if it presented itself
and would love to perform at the famed Carnegie Hall in New York City.
After her school and music exams, Fensom will begin practising with the TTYP’s for its upcoming concerts, a Gospel concert We are not Ashamed, at the Central Bank Auditorium, on May 25 and the orchestra’s after music camp’s grand concert Romantic Overtures—Animated Classics at NAPA, on August 4 as part of the orchestra and the Euangelion Choir’s 20th-anniversary celebrations.