Thu | Apr 18, 2019

Inner-city youths get chance to share stage with stars

Published:Friday | April 12, 2019 | 12:47 AMJason Cross/Gleaner Writer

Ricardo Aikman (right), audio engineer at Main Event Entertainment Group, explains the workings of a mixer board to Richard Shay (left), Kerry-Ann Wilson (second left), and Sheneil Sterling. The showcase was part of yesterday’s media launch for Main Event’s M-Academy, a training institution to certify individuals in the areas of audio, lighting, and video.
Ricardo Aikman (right), audio engineer at Main Event Entertainment Group, explains the workings of a mixer board to Richard Shay (left), Kerry-Ann Wilson (second left), and Sheneil Sterling. The showcase was part of yesterday’s media launch for Main Event’s M-Academy, a training institution to certify individuals in the areas of audio, lighting, and video.

A major demand locally and internationally for young people who are trained and certified in event production has given birth to M-Academy, a brainchild of Main Event Entertainment Group Limited (MEEGL), in partnership with the Jamaica Social Investment Fund (JSIF).

One hundred young people from inner-city communities across the island will be part of the very first cohort to be immersed in an intensive four- to six-month course, commencing next month.

The programme, which was launched yesterday at the Chinese Benevolent Association in St Andrew, has attracted a $20-million grant from the JSIF, through that government entity’s Integrated Community Development Project, geared at equipping Jamaicans with alternative livelihood skills development and training in event production.

Chief executive officer of MEEGL Solomon Sharpe explained yesterday that M-Academy’s goal is to empower young people to become top earners in a major global field that has not yet gained glory among celebrated traditional industries. He emphasised that with carnival weeks away, there is a huge demand for stakeholders in every phase of production for the more than 30 events scheduled to unfold. Sharpe was bullish that the field empowered “young people to make all the money they want”.

“There are going to be 25 events in Ocho Rios alone. I haven’t yet mentioned Kingston and the other parishes. If we scour properly the large number of events, who will cater to these? During this time, hotels will remain open, so who will entertain these people?” said Sharpe.

“We have to be ready! For major productions, 50 to 60 people fly in to work. We want five flying in only to supervise. We will be training and certifying in video engineering, lighting, staging, artiste management, catering and bar service. A lot of university students would love this experience. Unfortunately, events production has not yet received the ‘cool factor’. We want to bring the credibility and the ‘cool factor’ into play.”

Jamaican John DaCosta, who has worked alongside some of the world’s most famous stars on sets as a lighting designer and programmer, as well as Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett and Alando Terrelonge, state minister in education, endorsed the programme and implored youth to follow their dreams.

“You can do anything! There is so much work on the overseas market in terms of this field. Venues are booked from January 1 to December 31 every year,” said DaCosta, a Wolmer’s alumnus who has worked with entertainers such as Alicia Keys, Maxwell, Jay-Z, P Diddy, Nicki Minaj, and Maroon 5.

“When you get to that stage, there will be a level of professionalism like you’ve never seen before.”

When Nicola Reid from Tivoli Gardens, Kingston, assessed her prospects, she told The Gleaner that she was upbeat about participating in the programme.

“This is a great opportunity. Where I am from, a lot of the people sit down and the girls just breed up. They have no work and are not educated. They are all about sex and those things. I am not ready for a baby,” said the 18-year-old.

“I would love the opportunity to go as far as I can go, working with some of the big stars!”

jason.cross@gleanerjm.com