Shenelle Abraham has made history this year as the 24 year old arranger for the large band Junior Sammy Group Skiffle based in San Fernando. Earning a degree from Florida Memorial University where she double majored in Mathematics and Music, Shenelle made her debut as a virtual unknown arranger for the popular south-based band. An All Stars alumni and arranger for the small band at St. Magaret's, Shenelle has been able to demonstrate her expertise as arranger and pan enthusiast with this year's golden opportunity.
WW. What was your first reaction when you were asked by Skiffle CEO & skipper to arrange for the group?
SA. I was really excited since it is every arranger’s dream to be afforded the opportunity to arrange for a large band.
WW. Do you think inexperience as an arranger worked against you the first time around?
SA. I believe that being inexperienced allowed me to think outside the box in terms of ideas and not just give the band ideas I think the judges would like.
WW. You are a young female arranger, do people emphasise on those facts a lot since you were given the job?
SA. Yes many people stressed those facts, especially the female part. My experience, musical capability, taste in music, personality and even my age more affect how I write music rather than my gender
WW. Skiffle Bunch decided to cover "Play Yourself" by Crazy. How did the tune allow for innovation in arrangement?
SA. The melody was simple and playful, the chord changes were beautiful and the vibe of the tune embodied the panorama spirit. It allowed me to showcase my musical knowledge in chords and my age permitted me to be able to do some playful lines in it.
WW. How did your qualifications in Music at Florida Memorial aid you in arranging for a large band?
SA. The wealth of knowledge from Florida Memorial University, aided me a lot. I was able to apply what I learnt in classes, knowledge gained from sitting and talking to teachers, observing how my teachers did orchestral arrangements. I learnt a lot from Dr. Dawn Batson-Borel, who has the world of knowledge especially on steelband arranging.
WW. Every arranger wants to stamp his/her mark on the arrangement- what did you do to define yourself?
SA. My signature in arrangements is my minor section. Everyone who listens to my arrangements listens out for the minor section.
WW. Skiffle Bunch has a majority youth population- was it hard being indoctrinated into the panside?
SA. It was not very difficult. It is easier for me to relate to the youths. But though I was teaching my peers, they still gave me the respect of an authority figure.
WW. What was your teaching method like?
SA. To make the teaching process faster I usually gave one or two people in the section the music and they would distribute it.
WW. What was the one thing (as the arranger) you hoped they would NOT do?
SA. As a young arranger you always fear that the band would tell you how to arrange the song. But when I had put down the tune, the band was very supportive and never expressed negativity towards it.
WW. Did you have any kind of sentiment coming up against your erstwhile band All Stars?
SA. I was flattered that I could compete in the same category as them. But as an arranger I was more focused on competing with the other arrangers rather than the bands themselves
WW. Is there anything you would change ?
SA. I wouldn’t change anything, not with the players, not the arrangement. I was pleased and Skiffle and the management team were also pleased.
WW. Would arranging be something you will do again next year?
SA. Who knows what the future holds but what I can say is that the results of this year would definitely not keep me from competing ever again.
WW. Many would describe your opportunity and experience as "historical"- how would describe it in one word?
SA. “Inspirational”. Many female arrangers reached out to me and said that they were really inspired.
WW. Now that you have arranged for a large band, are you keen on going back to your roots with small bands?
SA. Of course. I can’t leave the small band. I intend on growing with St. Margaret’s so I would never abandon the small band category once they are competing in it
WW. You have to put on a brave face as an arranger- what is one thing people do not know about Shenelle Abraham- the person?
SA. That I am a very shy, introverted person once I am not working or on stage.
WW. What is the next step for Shenelle Abraham?
SA. The next step is completing my masters in Mathematics and in Music and preparing for St. Margaret’s Youth Pan Extravaganza in July.