SAMECA HENDRICKSON | ST THOMAS – After competing in poise, talent, image, and personal/private interview, Elisa M. Thomas, Miss UVI 2014-2015, captured the prestigious title of Miss NBCA Hall of Fame Queens Pageant. Thomas vied for title among 29 other HBCU royalty in Atlanta, Georgia on September 24-28.
University faculty and staff, students and well wishers greatly applaud Thomas on her a job well done!
ST.THOMAS- After successful tryouts, fundraising, extensive stretching, exercising, three months of rehearsal and perfecting their “boom kacks,” the ladies of U.V.I Dance Team are prepared for their debut performance at the Paradise Jam game on Saturday, Nov. 23. During the halftime game, where Metropolitan University takes on the U.V.I Buccaneers, U.V.I’s dance team will perform their latest dance mix. The performance features music from many genres such as hip-hop, R&B, dance hall, pop and calypso and also uses well-known songs.
ST.CROIX- An unfamiliar face walked into the theater on a Wednesday afternoon. He walked to the back to the only piano, a Baldwin, sat down and played an original song, “Origami,” while students listened in amazement.
The University of the Virgin Islands has musically talented students who might be compared to famous pianists such as Ray Charles, Ludwig van Beethoven and Sun Ra, but they go unnoticed. Students at UVI say there isn’t a strong music program and going off island seems to be the better option.
Jahmal Francis emerges from the circle of students whose musical talent stands out.
Francis is an 18-year-old freshman at UVI. His personality and calm charisma is sculpted by music. He started playing the piano at the age of 12 and at 15 he made a special effort to master his talents. Francis sings and has mastered both the tenor saxophone and the piano, with piano being his favorite. His high school music teacher taught him the basics of playing the piano, however, he learned the rest on his own. He enjoys incorporating his R&B style into every key he plays on the piano.
“I first play with my heart, then my hands in a sense. The music takes me away,’” he said.
This multitalented student majors in business management but his true passion is music. Francis Francis says he might transfer to a different school. He really wants to major in entrepreneurship with a concentration of music, however, majoring in music is not UVI’s strong point. According to UVI’s website, the only degree program that UVI offers in relation to music is a bachelor’s degree in music education. Francis is torn between leaving home and going away to study his true passion.
When Francis is not playing a mellow tune, he is writing poetry. In his free time he plays his emotions into his piano and projects his lyrical thoughts on paper through song writing.
Francis is a perfectionist when it comes to his music. Along with recording his music, his keen hearing for piano notes allows him to tune his music to perfection.
Francis is an original. His smooth style, soulful keys and other musical elements included in his music are 100 percent him. He listens to a variety of music because he believes every artist is unique and it inspires him to be different. Listening to a variety of musical genres allows Francis to channel his musical abilities through his voice and instruments to share with other people who enjoy music.
There are only a few people who aware of Francis’ talent because there are limited showcasing outlets for musical talent at UVI. Promoting himself as an artist can be difficult because he does not have the proper materials to record his music. However, Francis still finds alternatives to promote his music through social networks like Facebook.
The famous pianist, Ludwig van Beethoven said, “the barriers are not erected which can say to aspiring talents and industry, ‘Thus far and no further.’”
Francis and a group of other young artists are on their way to making an album. The album will contain a collage of young local artists showcasing their different styles and abilities.
Music is something special to Francis. It brings out a humble, artistic aura that touches others when he plays. Even though showcasing outlets and required materials to record his music are few, Francis pushes through and finds alternatives to stay local through the album and remain at UVI.
The University of the Virgin Islands has musically talented students who anxiously wait to find an outlet to showcase their abilities.
“If you have a talent, use it in every which way possible. Don`t hoard it. Don`t dole it out like a miser. Spend it lavishly like a millionaire intent on going broke.” said Aaron Kildow.
Salsa Club works to promote Latin culture on campus
ST.CROIX — The counting of steps and Latin music could be heard from the cafeteria of the Albert A. Sheen campus on Tuesday afternoon, as the Salsa Club worked to promote Latin culture through dance.
According to University of the Virgin Islands graduate and president of the Salsa Club, Ismael Rosado Jr., Latin culture, especially salsa is underrepresented at the university.
“I was a part of the first Salsa Club in St. Thomas, and after three or four solid years over there I decided that since I’ve been home for about a year, let’s see if this could work out,” Rosado said. “There is nothing like that here, no salsa exposure.”
According to the listing of clubs and organizations on the university’s website, there are no clubs or organizations geared towards Latin culture. The closest organization would be the “Social and Cultural Committee.”
While the Salsa Club is led by Rosado, the class was taught by Humanities Professor La Vaughn Belle, and her husband, Rivert Diaz, which was the first time the class was taught by guest instructors.
The instructors were chosen for their background in knowing how to dance salsa, although their salsa style is more Cuban.
“I wanted to see how their teaching style was, and how the students received them,” Rosado said. “Hey, anytime you have a guest professor who knows salsa you take them up on it.“
Diaz and Belle are in the process of opening a dance studio called “House of Clave,” but are currently instructors at the Bailar Casino Social Club on Tuesdays and Thursdays at the Comanche Hotel, and Saturdays at La Laguna.
“We’ve been teaching for a long time,” Belle said. “I was going to start a Salsa Club, but it just happened to be synergetic that he was starting one at the same time so it was perfect.”
Belle said that while she would not be able to attend every class, she would try to attend as many as possible.
According to Rosado the classes are scheduled for Tuesdays and Fridays at 12:30 p.m. in the cafeteria.
One of the most challenging tasks with the club is attracting male students.
“Originally it was just girls and with some recruiting on the day, which is why I think 12:30 is a good time, you can kind of recruit guys,” Rosado said. “Generally, towards the beginning recruiting is a lot easier than later on because they already are exposed and they know what it is. So if they don’t want to come, they just don’t want to come. But I’m optimistic.”
With National Hispanic Heritage Month coming up in November, Rosado is hoping that with some practice, there will be a group that can represent the Salsa Club, even if it is only a small performance.
“It’s going to take some work, but ideally that would be great. Maybe if we can get La Vaughn Belle and some of the other instructors and students who are more skilled, we could do a simple performance,” Rosado said.
“I had fun,” nursing major and Dance Team captain, Deidre Dubois, said. “I knew Ismael for a very long time and he invited me to take just one day of classes and I decided to stick with it.”
One of Rosado’s ultimate goals is to get a worthwhile group that can participate in and bring awareness to the community.
“I’m hoping to get a solid group together that can learn gradually and develop their skills to potentially being able to perform and go outside into the community and participate in the social culture, which is salsa and Latin dance,” Rosado said.