Popular San Fernando steel orchestra Skiffle has forged a key linkage with US-based Sweet Briar College to establish a "Skiffle USA" branch.
This significant linkage comes as the Coffee Street-based orchestra prepares to host its premier concert "Skiffle through the years–a musical journey" tomorrow.
The concert, which features performances from Stalin, Nadia Madhoo and Eddie Cumberbatch, will be held at Queen's Hall, Port-of-Spain, from 8 pm.
Orchestra leader Junia Regrello said he was thrilled to be hosting the concert against the backdrop of the band establishing its link with the college.
Regrello described the linkage as an important evolutionary step as Skiffle celebrates its 20th anniversary this year. He said the linkage is a milestone and a culmination of seven years of planning.
"It is a linkage with a university which as the academia aspect to it. Members of our band are high school students, young people involved in the band and it gives them an opportunity to improve their capacity," Regrello said.
Skiffle USA will be an exchange programme between the college's students and members of the orchestra and each side will benefit from the cultural experiences to be gained, he said.
"We look at this as a very profound experience in terms of young people coming into the band," he said.
He added that monetary gain cannot be "the be all and end all."
"It has to be developmental and a pathway to growth and development," Regrello said.
Dr Jeffery Alan Jones, a music teacher at the college, is in Trinidad to formalise the arrangements. He is among the guest performers at the concert and will be conducting the orchestra for the classical piece, Puccini: Madama Butterfly the humming chorus.
Jones, who did his PhD dissertation on Skiffle, said he was pleased to be part of the linkage between Sweet Briar, which ranked among the top 20 US colleges, and Skiffle.
He said Skiffle has become part of his family and he was pleased to come to T&T, with assistance of the Virgina Foundation of Independent Colleges and the Mednick Memorial Fellowship, to cement a lasting linkage.
"I hope that it can be a kind of cultural exchange were we can both learn from each other and gain experience. We are very excited. My students are very excited. If things go well, we are hoping that the way technology works that we can Skype and video chat amongst the players and the groups," Jones said.
He said he was excited to have been given the opportunity to conduct the orchestra.
"The players are interested in a very broad spectrum of music because they play all kinds of music. They play Indian classical music, they play calypso, they play pop music, reggae, they play classical. When it is time to work on classical music they are very interested in making sure that they get as much of the experience that they can.
"As a teacher it is wonderful to work with such a dedicated and curious group of students. It is special for me," Jones said.
Tickets for the concert are available at Queen's Hall box office and at Skiffle's Coffee Street, Pan Theatre.