Bishop Gibson High builds choir members' leadership skills
With their unique sound and raw talent, the girls of the Bishop Gibson High school choir and contestants in the TVJ's All Together Sing competition may give viewers goose pimples when they sing.
But even more interesting is the structure behind the 60-voice choir, as students are expected to portray exemplary leadership roles in all things.
Choir director Ramon Dennis, who has been at Bishop Gibson for less than a year, said the whole process has been a learning curve he is excited about.
"It is a mandate by the Ministry of Education that students develop a leadership approach to everything, and so I have seen it fit to incorporate that with the choir. We have a captain, a vice-captain, secretary, deputy secretary, treasurer, and the public relation officer. There will be times when something comes up and I won't be available to attend and so these persons will have to step in to manage the choir and teach a piece," he said.
Dennis, who has been in the teaching profession for 11 years, said this is his first time at an all-girls school.
"Being here has changed my approach to discipline. I find it more difficult to deal with girls than say co-ed. This is a very disciplined institution but you know how girls are when they are together, very talkative. So the help is necessary," said Dennis.
Choir captain Ashley Ellis revealed that it is also her responsibility to teach pieces.
"I am basically in charge when our director isn't here and I help out when things aren't going the way they are supposed to go. I teach pieces, so I know how to sing all parts," she said.
Her vice-captain Kamille Plummer chimed in.
"I don't sing all parts but I know how to differentiate between parts. I mostly teach the sopranos," she said.
Dennis proudly stated that no other choir in the competition has Bishop Gibson's distinct sound.
"When you have a co-ed choir, the sound will automatically be different. Take for example, if we have our tenors imitate the male tenor, the sound is really distinct and once you hear us singing, you will know it's Bishop," he said.
The last time the choir entered the competition they finished in the top five. But this year they are looking to take home the trophy.
The choir's style back then was mostly centred around classical and '70s pop music.
But this year they are looking at mostly 20th century pop, R&B and 'black gospel'.
Jodeen Blake, choir secretary, said they have been doing quite a bit of fundraising on campus, selling smoothies and shakes.
She added that they have also been strategically targeting external sponsors and those who have had a long-standing relationship with the institution.
Dennis said more important than the talent that exists is the ability to choose the right songs to promote the voices of the choir, particularly their powerhouse lead singer, 15-year-old Mekalah Francis.
"We have a group of talented ladies who can on spot sing any one of the songs we have done and add the choreography to it, and we have a strong team of eight members of staff who are behind them," he said.