Young musician relishing Crop Over exposure

Every year trumpeter Erin Hazlewood looks forward to playing with the Stray Cats calypso tent band.

Playing for more than ten years now, the graduate of the Barbados Community College’s (BCC) Music Programme, is one of the growing numbers of young musicians playing in the calypso tents at Crop-Over.

She told Nation Online that while her involvement in music started at Christ Church Foundation School under the tutelage of the late Derry Etkins, it was Laura Payne, another music teacher, who encouraged her to hone her skills on the trumpet and to rehearse in the Barbados Defence Force Band.

“I’ve been with the Stray Cats Tent for a good couple years now. One year I had a stint with De Big Show. Now, I am first trumpet chair in the Barbados Defence Force Band. I’m still playing, and I love it. I won’t say it’s a hobby because it’s still a source of income at this time, but it’s what I do on the side,” said Erin who works full-time at a commercial bank.

“Without music I don’t know where I would be. …I started with Stray Cats out of BCC. At that time, [tent manager] Jerry Roberts had his one-man band at the Crane and [tutor] Roger Gittens introduced his students to him straight out of college just to assist, and it grew from there. It’s primarily a very young band and we’ve been with him consistently throughout the years.

The member of the Barbados National Youth Symphony Orchestra remembers what her early days in the tent were like saying that while it was small, and they were young, “it was really interesting”.

“It was fun, the musicianship to me got better, yeah, we would’ve made our few mistakes, but it got better, and the camaraderie throughout the group as we were young set off each other. It was always nice. We didn’t have any problems between us; it was more like a family and not a tent or any other gig because we had our jokes and we all pulled through together and made it work,” Erin recalled.

The talented, young Stray Cats horn section comprised (from left) bandleader Keron Prescod, Erin Hazlewood, Shantelle Lubrein and Kofi Gilkes. (FILE.)

For the trumpeter, being in the tent’s band went beyond rehearsals and playing at the shows. She said the musicians helped Jerry as well. She printed the music and consulted with him on the musicians who would play for the season.

As a young musician, Erin sees her role and that of other young musicians in Crop-Over as important, as “fresh blood” as she called it, keeps the festival going. She remembers when apprentice musicians, those fresh out of BCC, played in the Party Monarch band and would like to see this continue.

“You see the standard players, [the older musicians] play every year and as a younger musician, and a female musician, you don’t get to see [us] playing in the bigger tents. I think it’s a really nice opportunity to see the younger musicians out there as understudies to the regular guys,” she stated.

To be clear, Erin doesn’t have an issue with the “standard players” and doesn’t want to see them fizzled out. She’s simply suggesting that it is nice to see younger faces backing up the big artistes and having them play at big ticket Crop-Over events – not the Pic-O-De-Crop “would be great”.

She thinks it’s “brilliant” to have young musicians involved in the Scotiabank Junior Monarch competition. She also thinks that having more young people being part of the annual festival, apart from feting and jumping in Grand Kadooment, would aid in its longevity.

Erin is also recommending including young people in events and activities outside of the Crop-Over season as it would encourage their growth and move them from thinking, “oh gosh, which tent am I playing in this year, or what kind of salary can I get from playing in a tent this year, to looking to build beyond that”. (GBM)


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