On Saturday Dec. 9, Grand Cayman music lovers will enjoy a performance by acclaimed 18-year-old cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason, the winner of the 2016 BBC Young Musician national competition in Britain that takes place every other year. Joining Sheku for portions of this special concert presented by the Cayman Arts Festival will be his 21-year-old talented sister, pianist Isata Kanneh-Mason.
However, the visit to Grand Cayman by the Kanneh-Masons is not only about entertaining music lovers; it’s also about exposing school-age children to the wonders of classical music. The day before their ticketed concert, the Kanneh-Masons will conduct an educational masterclass at Cayman International School. Cayman Arts Festival Executive Director Marius Gaina said the organisation’s educational undertaking was the most important part of its mission.
“From its inception in 2004, Cayman Arts Festival has brought overseas artists to perform on island and these artists have also held well-attended workshops in public and private schools,” he said. “We are delighted to be able to continue to offer amazing performances and artist-led workshops and we strongly believe that Sheku and Isata Kanneh-Mason have a huge potential to motivate and entertain our students.”
In addition to the masterclasses, workshops and concerts — which are always family oriented — Cayman Arts Festival is also responsible for the musical education of students enrolled in its after-school programme, Gaina said.
Starting our students at a young age to perform and appreciate live performances will develop a young group of musicians that will strengthen the Cayman musicians of the future. Joe Millson, Director of Bands at Cayman International School
Joe Millson, the director of bands at Cayman International School, is coordinating the masterclass with the Kanneh-Masons on Dec. 8. He believes that visits from acclaimed, professional musicians are extremely important for his students and offer many benefits.
“The students are able to experience professional international performances that they would not be able to see if they do not travel off island specifically for these types of performances,” he said “Also, students are able to model after the professional musicians by attending the masterclass and listening to all of their advice. Students that may have not had much influence in the performing arts may become enlightened by hearing these young musicians perform for them at the masterclass.”
Millson thinks the young age of the Kanneh-Masons can have a particular impact on the students attending the masterclass.
“They will better be able to relate to the younger musicians as they may not feel such a strong connection with performers of an older age,” he said. “They may be more inclined to ask questions to musicians closer to their age, which will better their involvement in the masterclass.”
Having school-age children be an integral part of Cayman Arts Festival’s education mandate, which includes opportunities for the students to perform in front of live audiences along with professional musicians, helps nourish the music culture in the Cayman Islands, Millson said.
“Starting our students at a young age to perform and appreciate live performances will develop a young group of musicians that will strengthen the Cayman musicians of the future,” he said. “We are already seeing the effects of this from the past few years as students look up to their older peers that have been part of competitions and live performances.”
Sheku and Isata Kanneh-Mason will perform on Saturday, Dec. 9, at the Agape Family Worship Centre in George Town, starting at 5 p.m. The early start time was chosen to allow attendees to also attend other events, like office Christmas parties, later in the evening.
Works that will be performed for the concert include Cassado — suite for solo cello; Beethoven — cello sonata in G minor, Op. 5, No. 2; and Shostakovich — sonata in D minor for cello and piano, Op. 40.
For more information or to purchase tickets, visit caymanartsfestival.com.