Art will help not hurt aca­demics

The Star (St. Lucia) - - LOCAL - By Keryn Nel­son

Some­where, buried be­neath our most fer­tile soil here in Saint Lu­cia, are the bones left over from thou­sands of mur­dered child­hood dreams. How many oth­ers have you bonded with over un­re­quited de­sires to try your hand at the pi­ano, the drums, drama or dance classes?

In an at­tempt to show young, Saint Lu­cian mu­si­cians that there are oth­ers watch­ing and lis­ten­ing, who care about their artis­tic pur­suits, The Events Com­pany of Saint Lu­cia on Fri­day 29 Septem­ber, hosted ‘Break­fast with Bran­don’, a sit-down event with four­teenyear-old in­ter­na­tional, tour­ing gui­tarist and singer, Bran­don “Taz” Nieder­auer, along­side his mother, Alexan­dra, a Saint Lu­cian her­self, and fa­ther, Gary. The event took place at the beach­side Sea­grapes Restau­rant at Bay Gar­dens Beach Re­sort.

Bran­don, who has been play­ing the gui­tar since the age of eight, has show­cased his tal­ents across the United States, even ap­pear­ing on ‘Good Morn­ing Amer­ica’, ‘The Ellen Degeneres Show’ and ‘The View’. He also starred as ‘Zack’ in An­drew Lloyd Web­ber’s Tony award-nom­i­nated Broad­way pro­duc­tion, ‘School of Rock - the Mu­si­cal’ – a more than co­in­ci­den­tal gig, as Bran­don’s in­ter­est in mu­sic formed while watch­ing the movie ‘School of Rock’ dur­ing a fam­ily road trip.

Mu­sic stu­dents from across the is­land sat down with the gui­tar prodigy to pose their pre­pared ques­tions in hopes of re­ceiv­ing ex­clu­sive in­sight. On­look­ers kept their fin­gers crossed that from his re­sponses at least one thing would hit home to pre­vent an­other light from go­ing out and leav­ing be­hind a skele­ton of a dream to later be buried with all the prom­ise of what could have been.

While the no­tion that chil­dren grow­ing up in Saint Lu­cia are not ex­posed to ex­actly the same en­vi­ron­ment and op­por­tu­ni­ties as Bran­don, who has lived his life thus far in the United States, may have lin­gered over some heads, his par­ents kept it real.

Mrs. Nieder­auer spoke frankly about her hes­i­ta­tion to sup­port her son’s mu­si­cal am­bi­tions: “I was born and raised by a Saint Lu­cian mother. I was taught that you go to school and af­ter­wards you got a job; that is how it goes.” She also men­tioned that she failed to show up for his first few shows. When she did even­tu­ally go, she wit­nessed how pas­sion­ately he played and what she re­ferred to as a “trans­for­ma­tion in her child” – the piv­otal mo­ment that ig­nited her full sup­port.

As for op­por­tu­ni­ties, Bran­don had de­clared his de­sire to take gui­tar lessons to his fa­ther, whose mu­sic col­lec­tion Bran­don says was an­other key com­po­nent of his de­vel­oped in­ter­est in the art­form. A fan of mu­sic him­self, Mr. Nieder­auer helped his son find a teacher and to en­rol in classes.

Mu­sic is one of Saint Lu­cia’s more cel­e­brated art­forms, es­pe­cially now with var­i­ous fes­ti­vals and con­certs ded­i­cated to au­di­ences with di­verse mu­si­cal tastes. A few schools on-is­land pro­vide mu­sic pro­grammes, and in­sti­tu­tions like the Saint Lu­cia School of Mu­sic and ‘Mu­sic­man’ are avail­able to hope­fully fill any gaps via af­ford­able classes.

Hard work and bal­ance are the other pieces to the puz­zle ac­cord­ing to the Nieder­auer fam­ily.

Bran­don, who shared his rigid sched­ule of fin­ish­ing home­work as­sign­ments dur­ing flights, as well as the “to be able to play you must get good grades” prin­ci­ple he adopted from his mother, also high­lighted that he puts at least two hours a day into his craft and tries not to think of it as rou­tine prac­tice but as an out­let and source of en­joy­ment.

Mr. Nieder­auer drew at­ten­tion to the aca­demic and so­cial ben­e­fits of sup­port­ing chil­dren’s artis­tic en­deav­ours. “Play­ing mu­sic as a young per­son and study­ing, they in­ter­twine, one helps the other, so if a child has the po­ten­tial and wants to play, whether they’re good or not it doesn’t mat­ter; let them ex­plore that and try to nur­ture it be­cause that’s go­ing to also help math, so­cial stud­ies and science,” he said.

He went on to men­tion that be­ing in a com­fort­able set­ting, among other artists and peers, also helps with build­ing so­cial skills – some­thing they ob­served in their son, who briefly touched on his en­coun­ters with bul­lies as a young child.

Through­out the event Bran­don re­it­er­ated the idea of hold­ing onto dreams, keep­ing them big and work­ing on your craft de­spite what oth­ers say. His par­ents stressed the im­por­tance of al­low­ing chil­dren to have an artis­tic plat­form, be it “mu­sic, draw­ing, or mak­ing dresses.”

For those who may con­sider re­sources avail­able in Saint Lu­cia to be scant, when it comes to “art”, per­spec­tive can dic­tate whether first steps are taken or never at­tempted. One per­son may view this 238.2 square mile is­land as a mind-numb­ing, moun­tain­ous trap while an­other sees the land­scape as awe-in­spir­ing. Just think, what­ever he saw and felt within this is­land is what in­spired Derek Wal­cott to pick up a pen.

Later that night, Bran­don, along with his band, took to the stage at the Blues Fes­ti­val, the fourth in­stall­ment of Soleil – Saint Lu­cia’s Sum­mer Fes­ti­val.

A mu­sic stu­dent from the Corinth Sec­ondary School poses a ques­tion to Bran­don.

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