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Rojenna Holligan follows her dream of becoming a musician

Twenty-three-year-old Rojenna Holligan is the owner of Pan Crib Music Academy a company which she started five years ago due to her passion for music.

Speaking to the media Holligan said her business which is located at Culpepper Development, St Phillip was started due to her love for music.

“My catalyst behind starting my business was that I always loved music from a young age. I always loved children and I loved to explain things to people. When I was sixteen-years-old I said that this would be something that I am interested in, so this is how I began to learn [steel pan]. I did a summer camp that the Central Bank sponsored was called Pan In the Plaza at the time which is now called the Pan Project. I did that from the time I was seven-years-old, and I would attend the camp every year and I said that this is something that I would like to have in St. Phillip because we do not really have a lot of community outreach programmes in St Phillip so it would be something nice to do,” she said.

Holligan who has an Associate Degree in Music from the Barbados Community College said that she became passionate about the steel pan because it is a Caribbean instrument and noted that her father bought her first steel pan.

“I chose steel pan mainly because it is a Caribbean instrument which originated in Trinidad, and we were able to get some shipped here and we have one tuner in the island. My father bought me my first steel pan when I was sixteen-years-old. I felt so happy. I actually did my CSEC music exam, and I came second in the region at that time, and this was in 2015 and I received an award for that in school and so on,” she said.

The former Harrison College student said that she decided to have certification for students in music in her music academy was to allow them to have official documentation of what they learned while at summer camp.

“I believe that students need some sort of documentation to show that they did something. They can’t just come to a camp or workshop and have nothing to show what they did. I ensure I take a lot of photos and videos on Instagram @pancrib_246. The certification is really to show that they would have accomplished the workshop in four weeks and that they were also able to complete a level of steel pan literacy. When they return to school after the summer vacation the teachers thank me, as they are more focused and relaxed. This programme helps them to be able to articulate themselves as they do not only do music all day, but they also do tours, other musicians come and speak to them. So that even if they do not want to pursue music as a career, they can still play music to entertain themselves,” she said.

Holligan who is the owner of Pan Crib Music Academy said that she had to readjust her services due to the impact of COVID-19 on the entertainment industry.

“Before COVID-19 I was gigging at various hotels and private events- weddings. Anyone contacted me I performed music for them. I never got the opportunity to play at any big concert. I had a lot of readjusting to do as I had to do a blended approach with the camp, where we had a majority of online classes and still the in-person classes. I tried to revamp the camp as I did one-on-ones as well as house calls for students who were interested in learning about steel pan,” she said.

The young woman who is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in Music in Education at the University of The West Indies said that one thing she would like to revamp the music education syllabus in Barbados as she believes it is not a reflection of Caribbean music culture.

“I would like to revamp and change a lot as it pertains to music education in Barbados as it is so European and so backward. As Caribbean music students, I feel like things like learning to play the recorder are not important skills as there is no professional recorder player. I think we need to make the steel pan the instrument that you have to learn and major in. If you want to major in something else that is fine. Steel pans are cheaper than pianos to manufacture, maintain and tune, but yet, persons would find money to purchase a piano. I think it is backward. That is something that I would like to see happen and change,” she said.

Holligan advice for persons seeking to become musicians was to always be true to their music.

“As I tell my students to be true to their music and themselves. People take a lot of things from people but once you have a talent no one can take your talent from you. And even if you do not want to make a career from your talent or want to be a teacher, make yourself happy with your music,” she said.

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