Cayman Arts Festival

John Gray Musician off to New York

John Gray Musician off to New York

June 9, 2017 9:48 am

A John Gray High School student has been given a rare chance to extend his already considerable musical talents by being sponsored to attend the prestigious Luzerne Music Center in New York for a month-long intensive music course, starting mid-June.

Fourteen-year-old Dequan Smith was picked by the Cayman Arts Festival team headed by organiser, renowned musician and pianist, Glen Inanga, as the worthy recipient of this year’s scholarship to the Luzerne Music Center, the fourth youngster to receive the scholarship in as many years.

Marius Gaina, CAF executive director said: “It will basically mean that Dequan will be playing music from morning to night each day. There will be no cell phones allowed, and no internet; however, they have designed such a full programme that the students just don’t feel the day passing.”

Dequan, who is in year 9 at John Gray has an obvious passion for music, a natural progression for the youngster, as his mum, Fran McConvey, is a music teacher at the school. He admits he spends all of his spare time playing the piano, trumpet, euphonium, recorder, Irish whistle or cello.

He is first trumpet in the John Gray Swing Band; he plays the trumpet or euphonium in the RCIPS police band, cello in the Cayman National Orchestra and the CAF/GreenlightRe String Quartet, and keyboard at St. George’s Church.

Dequan said that his musical ability has been developing with age. “I first started playing keyboard when I was 6 or 7 and while I have always loved to play musical instruments, I find that my ability has definitely come with maturity,” he said.


John Gray music teacher Arek Nicholson is part of a team of teachers within the music faculty at the school who has taught Dequan over the years.

“Dequan is something of a chameleon when it comes to playing musical instruments, as he is able to play several instruments very well. It comes easily to him. He falls in love with one instrument quickly and then has the desire to advance as quickly as possible with that particular instrument. He does his own research and quizzes the teachers, which shows his skill and dedication,” Mr Nicholson observed.

Dequan acknowledged an inner drive that pushes him to succeed. He said: “I am passionate about music and in particular I’m determined to become better at whichever instrument I’m learning to play. I generally practice for about two hours each day, more at the weekend. I have a determination to be better.”

A case in point is his drive to play the cello, which he only picked up and learnt less than a year ago. He is now practicing a challenging piece for a cello part within a quartet to play at the Luzerne Music Centre.

“I love the cello in particular because of its deep, rich sound,” Dequan said. “It makes such a nice sound if I play it correctly.”


The Luzerne Music Center was founded in 1980 by Philadelphia Orchestra cellist Bert Phillips and Steinway pianist Toby Blumenthal and provides world class instruction for talented young musicians from all over the globe.

“This is going to be a fantastic opportunity for Dequan to see where he fits in at this extremely high level of talent, because the course attracts the best of the best from all around the world,” Mr Gaina stated.

Dequan is very much looking forward to the experience: “I really hope to become more advanced in my playing and to meet other musicians, in particular other cellists, as I don’t know other cellists currently. The music centre has encouraged us to get in touch with other students who will be on the course so we can get to know one another before we begin the course itself,” he added.

“This will be a chance for Dequan to really develop his skills. He is already good, so let’s make him better. If he gets better, then let’s make him great!” Mr Gaina added.

Source: Cayman Reporter

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