Jah Jerry Scholarship awardees grateful for honour
Jowayne Smith, a final-year music student at the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts, was a picture of gratitude after learning that he was one of three students named to receive the Jah Jerry Scholarship for the current academic year.
Describing his years at the college as a “roller-coaster” ride, Jowayne said he started pursuing his studies during the period when COVID-19 halted face-to-face instructions and educational institutions made the difficult transition to online learning.
The change in mode of delivery impacted Jowayne negatively, but also gave him a greater determination to complete his studies.
“Coming back to school, it’s like I am reignited to be here and being around my friends. I learn a lot from everyone,” he told The Gleaner recently. He says he has been tinkering around with music from as early as he can remember, recalling that he started out with the drums as a toddler - an interest his mother saw and encouraged.
A skilful bass guitarist, Jowayne said he has been playing the instrument since 2015. He plays with several groups but is a member of the Fire Force band.
As for his motivation, he said: “It’s more passion than just money, because as a musician, if you don’t really love music, you won’t stick with it.” He said the award came at a very difficult time in his life, having school fee obligations to settle in order to graduate. After leaving school, Jowayne says he wants to be a session bassist, and also to travel the world to play music. As a session bassist, he reasons that he will spend most of his time creating music in the studio, whether for an artiste or for commercials. “I want to see the world, and I believe that my talent has opened the door for me to do things in Jamaica; so I am looking forward for it to carrying me to other places in the world.”
The other scholarship awardees are Justin Smith and Matthew Harrison, who are both pursuing studies in music, which is a requirement for being selected for the Jah Jerry Scholarship. Justin, who is a second-year student pursuing a degree in music education, says although there were some family members who were not keen on his studying music, he received overwhelming support from his mother and father, the latter being a musician.
The young music scholar says he feels honoured to be given an award in the name of an outstanding musician who played a key role, behind the scenes, in the development of reggae music in Jamaica. The scholarship is valued at US$1,000.
In the next five years, he says he sees himself teaching music, but says he has plans to go back to university to read for a business degree so that he can merge both areas to target entrepreneurship. “Further on from that, I would like to know that I can give back to the community in the same way that the Jah Jerry Foundation Scholarship has helped me,” he said.
Harrison, now a second-year student at the college, says he has been passionate about music from childhood, but does not limit himself to any one area or style. Reggae, R&B, jazz, and rock music are just a few of the genres he enjoys.
He wants to contribute to the music industry in Jamaica after completing his degree.
Weighing in on concerns about the quality of dancehall music in Jamaica today, he says:
“I believe, as artistes, we need to realise that what we write and what we put out and what we sing is not just words; it really influences the younger generation. We have a lot of power, and that‘s what we don’t realise.
“With a lot of power comes a lot of responsibility, so we need to be a lot more careful with what we say and what we encourage,” Harrison said.
The Jah Jerry Foundation awarded three similar scholarships last year to students at the college and donated 30 new tablets to needy schools.
Since 2013, the foundation has awarded 24 scholarships to students at Edna Manley College and donated approximately 20 new desktop computers to schools in Jamaica.
The Jah Jerry Foundation was named after a founding member of Jamaica’s Skatalites band, Jerome ‘Jah Jerry’ Haynes.
James Haynes, Jah Jerry’s son, who is the chief executive officer of the foundation, said his late father devoted his time teaching aspiring young musicians the rudiments of the guitar and the fundamentals of reading and writing music.
During his lifetime, Jah Jerry recorded thousands of songs with and without the Skatalites. He died on August 13, 2007, at the age of 80.