Emily reflects on Barbuda

Daniel Swani, Peter Banks and I had the pleasure of travelling to Barbuda for a few days during our trip with The Commonwealth Resounds. I was very excited to be travelling to Antigua’s sister island but little did I know just how life changing the experience would be!

Our aim for the trip had been to teach recorder to a few students- preparing a short piece for the ABYSO’s concert there on Sunday- while also teaching violin to Karen and Zoe (who were going to take on the role of tutoring students on the island).

Upon arrival we made our way to Holy Trinity primary school where Daniel taught a recorder session. We had a group of pupils, all with very little recorder playing experience, learning the basics of the recorder. As a non-recorder player myself, I found the session very interesting – learning where the notes were and learning breathing technique alongside the students.

One of the things that struck me during this time – and our time on Barbuda as a whole – was the work ethic of the kids we were working with. It is not easy learning a new instrument in such a short time, let alone putting a piece together, but they definitely rose to the challenge! A few of the students even kept trying to learn more notes and techniques – excited to learn the range of the recorder. Their enthusiasm was infectious and I look forward to seeing how they progress in the next few years.

The violin session was run by Peter and I at the Fisheries near the famous Barbuda lagoon and where the ABYSO will be playing on Sunday. The aim of the session was to run over the basics of the violin and its maintenance long term with a few of the tutors who would be teaching string instruments to children on the island. They had all been learning about various bits of the instrument in sessions prior to our arrival but we had brought over the instruments they would be using. It is an incredible feat to learn an instrument so quickly – with some of them taking their grade one in just six weeks.

When we weren’t tutoring in Barbuda, we were having the most amazing tour of the island by our host – Karen Thomas. In the evening of our first day we were treated to lobster pasta at Uncle Ronnie’s – a renowned restaurant on the island. The restaurant also kept a few tortoises outside which they let us feed (a bucket list moment for me!!) On the morning of the second day we were taken to Princess Diana beach where we could see the sand’s famous pink hue. Paddling along, we were able to spot a stunning, small sting ray in the water before heading off to the final recorder session.

To top off the whole trip we were taken to the Frigate Bird Sanctuary by a lovely man named George. He took us on a speed boat round the lagoon to see the island’s famous birds and explained their history.

My experience on Barbuda has been one of the most musically rewarding experiences of my life. Seeing the kids get so stuck into the music and how much they achieved in just two days is incredible. I am excited to see how much the classical musical life on Barbuda flourishes in the coming years!