Teenagers today are blessed by technological advancements to have almost constant and instant access to a wealth of information. Still, this advantage may not always assist in decision-making and can sometimes even hinder the process by saturating their permeable minds with too much information.
Thus, teachers, role models, parents and mentors still play an integral part in helping young people to make those decisions that may be considered to be pivotal and life-altering. Blessed with this understanding, the organisers of the annual Republic Bank Decibel Arts and Entertainment Festival continue to seek out suitable, stable, positive role models and mentors to address and hopefully influence hundreds of secondary school students every year.
Festival Director, Simon Baptiste saluted the teachers present during his official address at the conference on Thursday:
“All the teachers please stand,” he asked as hundreds of students cheered and applauded loudly. “These are - in my humble opinion - the most under appreciated and under paid service personnel, who do so much for us and our nation. Please, have a seat, but I want to say that because of y’all there’s no leader, no politician, no CEO, no celebrity, no billionaire, who got to where they are today without the guidance of a teacher inn their lives, in fact - now you, stand up for them boys and girls and give your teachers another round of applause…”
At least one teacher appreciated the gesture and saluted the organisers in turn. Visual Arts Teacher at Vessigny Secondary School, Sopia Mitchell said:
“I believe that Decibel is a great forum for students and those interested in careers in the Visual and Performing Arts. The students were able to gain insights into the various career paths they can follow outside of "conventional jobs", as well as the ups and downs of working in the industry. The students thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to interact with professionals in different fields and they received great advice that can be applied in determining the course of their future. Kudos to the Decibel team on a job well done!”
Several members of Kes The Band were also present to share their thoughts and experiences with the assembly, including: stage manger, Wendell Naipaul; audio engineer, Nigel Brizan, Road Manager, Jarrod Faria; brothers, Jon and Kees Dieffenthaller and others members of their support team. They answered questions from moderator, Andrew “Fries” Friday as well as the students themselves and left a lasting impression on the students without playing or singing a single note.
“Today I learnt that no matter the circumstances and obstacles you face in life, you should always pick yourself back up and keep going for your goals,” said 15-year-old Vessigny Secondary School student, Celine De Leon.
It was the first time I attended the Decibel Conference,” said 16-year-old, Thyi-Chee Ramnarine, “I considered it a creative experience. I got to see many persons from around the country who appreciate Art and the Creative sector under one roof. I may have been living in a bubble, but I can see now that there is still effort being done to increase this industry. I've seen how different Trinidad and Tobago is from the rest of the world in terms of their appreciation for Art as it was expressed by the guest speakers - Kes the Band, Avan Jogia and Dylan Sprayberry. They told us how they made sacrifices personally - to pursue a career in a high risk industry; as a family - moving to completely different areas in order to pursue their passion, as well as mentally - one dropped out of school and emotionally - leaving behind friends and cultures. I appreciate the motivation to charge on with my dreams in the Art sector because now I know there's more to it than what I was seeing before. I believe what they told us: just have patience, determination, endurance, explore my creativity and with a supportive and loving family and love for what you do as well as doing everything with God in mind - I will be successful!”
For Ghost Wars Actor, Avan Jogia, the experience was extremely heartwarming and rewarding. Asked about the notion of failure, Jogan refused to acknowledge the word:
“In response to that question, I would ask, what is an unsuccessful story? The thing is that once you love doing what you do and you feel you need to do it, you will do it at whatever level is available to you - whether its a community theatre, or just in high school, or a television show in America or in Trini or anywhere, you know…
“If you really really want to do something, you will do it anywhere. So as far as success: create your own measurement of that and don’t measure yourself based on me or anyone else. If you love it, then just concentrate on bettering yourself every single day at the thing that you’re doing - whether its music, acting, painting or whatever else.”
Teen Wolf Star, Dylan Sprayberry shared equally positive advice, although at only 19-years-old, he too admitted that he was still exploring his passions and career options and had not yet decided exactly which career he wanted to pursue.
“Ahmmmm, I have no idea what’s next,” he laughed. “I’m young like you guys though - I’m only 19, so I’m still exploring stuff and still trying to figure it out, you know. I want to keep acting and I wanna keep working. I really like rock music and stuff. I’ve been a couple bands before but nothing so great yet. I’m really into MMA and stuff like that now. I got into it since I was like 13 and I wanna do some wrestling tournaments eventually. I know that’s not for everybody but for me its a great way to stay in shape and it puts me in a good mental state so… who knows?”
The final panel of the conference featured testimonials from social media stars, Roxy and Paris (YouTube vloggers), Rodell "Ro'dey" Cumberbatch (comedian/radio personality) and Aruna Maharaj (Beauty Educator and Make Up Artist) on the power of social media and its influence on modern business enterprises. All panelists answered questions from moderator, Jared "Major" Penny as well as from students themselves.
The Republic Bank Decibel Arts and Entertainment Festival concluded with an exciting Cosplay competition which saw Sheldon Daljitsingh take home the grand prize of a scholarship to teh Cinema Makeup School in Hollywood, Los Angeles with his rendition of “Hulkbuster”, Kai Ramkissoon earned himself an internship with The Lost Tribe for his portrayal of Pokemon Greninja and Jewell Forrester will represent Trinidad at the AnimeKon Epo in Barbados next August.
photos by Nigel Telesford
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