Tefari Prevoo Francisco returns from Berklee Summer Program welcomed by Minister Samuel
This Saturday, August 12, 2023, Ms. Tefari Prevoo Francisco, returned from a five-week summer intensive music program at the prestigious Berklee College of Music. She successfully completed this preliminary course to the Bachelor program and received a glowing introductory letter from Mr. Witness Matlou, South African Jazz Pianist and the music theory professor at Berklee. Ms. Tefari Prevoo Francisco’s participation in the course was made possible through assistance by the Division Study Financing, the Department of Culture, and the Cabinet of the Ministry of Education, Culture, Youth, and Sport (MECYS).
It is very clear that Tefari has plans to go places. She is very much within the learning process of her instrument(s) to a high professional level and her teacher, Mr. Paul Emmanuel, himself a Berklee College of Music alumni (Boston, USA) he introduced Tefari to the idea of her attending the summer intensive to furthering her jazz skills at university level. MECYS and the Department Division of Study Financing of St. Maarten made this dream possible. They provided a talent scholarship for her to attend the prestigious school for the 5-week summer program, the preliminary program to the bachelor’s in music. She attended music theory, musicianship, solfege, string styles survey class, sight reading, jazz improvisation and music therapy classes and was placed in the Jazz Ensemble and the string orchestra.
‘I met so many other talented young people dedicated to music. It was a fantastic experience to have this musical exchange at a very high professional level. The professors were amazing. I am so grateful to Mr. Witness Matlou, my music theory professor, a South African Jazz Pianist for writing me a glowing reference for my Berklee Bachelor audition which I did last Saturday. Ms. Mimi Rabson, my Jazz improvisation teacher and one of Boston’s elite on the Jazz fusion scene gave these inspiring classes which took my violin playing to the next level. It definitely was an intensive program. My days started at 9am and on some days I did not finish until 8pm. Blisters on my fingers from playing often more than 6 hours a day. I was challenged every minute of the day and I loved it. Being at Berklee College of Music confirmed and strengthened my goal of becoming a professional musician. It was also very exciting that there was a focus on teaching music and music as therapy as these are areas in which I am very much interested to study for my Bachelor’s or Master’s. Playing music has been very healing for myself in periods of anxiety and stress and I think there are many possibilities for the youth of St. Maarten in this field.’
At age 9, Tefari Prevoo Francisco, a Sister Regina Primary school student at the time decided to study violin and was steadfast in her choice of instrument. Thanks to the generous donation of Ann Fernandez, a regular visitor to the island, Tefari held an antique handmade violin, with superb acoustics, in her arms, barely 3 months later. Mr. Paul Emmanuel from the Emannuel School of Music started teaching her when she was 10 and he has been her consistent musical teacher since that time. He has taught her to play several instruments, foremost the violin but also the bass guitar and the saxophone. He initiated her to Jazz and fusion and taught her the foundation of performance, jazz improvisation, musical theory and foremost the joy of playing an instrument to a high level.
Tefari being a disciplined student both at school (St. Dominic High School) and within her musical development joined the National Institute of Art Youth Orchestra, directed by Neville ‘Fats’ James and has played and performed with the chamber music section of the Orchestra under Mr. Dennis Amajan. Also, she has participated at the Art saves lives Caribbean Youth Orchestra Program under direction of the American conductor Marlon Daniel. At the string section of the orchestra, she was introduced to classical music, and this inspired her to start online private lessons with Ms. Henriette de Vrijer, director of Pro-Amstrings violin school in Norwhich, UK with the support of the Prins Bernhard Culture Fund Caribbean.
In her short career as musician, Tefari has acquired many awards and recognition from local and international artists and dignitaries. As a solo violinist, Tefari performed at the Heineken Regatta in 2018 at Fete de la Music, for Malaika Maxwell at the Vision and Voice Red Carpet Event 2019, the 10th Anniversary 10-10-10 Commemoration 2020, Memorial Day 2020 and 2022 for Sint Maarten Government and the Honourable Governor Mr. Baly, and his predecessor Mr. Eugene Holiday, for Kings Day Government celebration Royal Decoration in 2020 and 2021 as well as St. Maarten’s Day 2021 and 2022. Other events include Toastmasters Club (2021), Voices Cultural Ancestral Emancipation Day Celebration 2021, the Reggae Love Festival (2021) and Saint Martin International Women's Day in Marigot (2021). Tefari performs at the St. Maarten’s Medical Centre during the Christmas Period to uplift the spirits of the patients. She also performs with varied groups including the Remo and the Barbwire band in 2018, 2020, 2021 and 2022 and Bushman and the freedom Fighters (2020/2021) and freelance musicians namely DreadI, Connis Vanterpool, Paul Emmanuel, Leonardo Richardson and Fred York. Her pinacle in that period was a surprise performance with Cat Coore from Third World in 2021.
Despite her achievements at a young age, she had to deal with health issues and adversity within her small family unit of her mother and herself. During these difficult times, Tefari has remained upbeat and positive, determined to follow her dreams. Tefari focused on overcoming the issues with a clear purpose to achieving success at the highest level which contributed to her earning the title of St. Maarten Governor's Youth Excellence Award 2021. When St. Dominic high School was forced to take out music out of the program during COVID, Tefari embarked on the very intensive music curriculum as a private student as an extra subject outside of school hours, in one year instead of two, with teacher Mrs. Daphne Jacobs Richardson from Anguilla and ongoing support from Mr. Paul Emmanuel assisted by MECYS and received the highest level distinction for her CSEC Advanced Music exams in 2022.
Tefari is very grateful to have been one the youth persons supported by the Department of Culture under direction of Ms. Clara Reyes and she has been able to showcase her skills at events like Culture and Emancipation Days alongside other talented youngsters. 2023 brought an amazing start of the year with a solo performance for the Royal Family from the Netherlands on the Boardwalk as well that the American/Anguillan band British Dependency has ‘adopted’ Tefari to be part of their musical family. Now, two Soggy Dollar gigs later, future plans are being made for recording and performing.