story by Ethan Pickering | Lifestyle editor
Photos from Sam Long | Assistant editor
Belizean students and musical artists spoke to an intellectual property law course at Middle Tennessee State University via Zoom. They shared their own colorful and personal stories about the culture and music scene of the country of Belize today.
The virtual meeting was hosted by recording industry professor and author of the International Classroom Initiative, Deborah Wagnon. It was open to any MTSU student who was interested.
Belize’s government media chief and cousin of Belize Prime Minister Aaron Briceño opened the virtual conference with a brief introduction on the state of music in Belize.
It is so important that people come to Belize and find out the hidden gems that we have musicians and artists.
Aaron Briceño – Head of Media for the Government of Belize
Mr. Briceño also said the Belizean government is encouraging the development of many different industries across the small country, including music. He highlighted the protective measures that the government has adopted recently to protect investments in these growing industries.
“I think the music is so underdeveloped (in Belize)… and I think a lot can be done because there is no shortage of talent,” Mr. Briceño said.
Belize is home to a plethora of musical culture, but struggles to share it with the world due to issues with internet access and infrastructure capacities.
The next segment of the conference was chaired by University of Belize political lecturer Ewart Robateau.
“We have a lot of great talent, but not enough industry to support it”, explained Robateau, “We have to develop music into an export industry … I think we have to promote it in tourism and education . ”
Robateau was accompanied by two students from the University of Belize: Carolyn Courtenay from Belize City and David Rodriguez from Dangriga, Belize.
The two students answered several questions from MTSU students about Belizean culture in an academic setting.
“It’s about 2,000 students,” Carolyn replied when asked about the size of the university. David added that it was Belize’s main national university, but there were several campuses across the country.
“There isn’t much done on campus right now, all classes are done virtually,” David said of a question about the impact of COVID-19 on education in Belize .
“I would rather be in the classroom… there are more benefits to the questions you ask and to the interaction with the students,” added Carolyn.
Much like in the United States, life in Belize has been affected by the pandemic.
“It’s kinda okay because you can enjoy the classes from the comfort of your living room,” David added.
The last group to virtually join the conference were Andre Medina and Justin Castillo, also known by his stage name J. Cas.. Andre and Justin are both musicians from Belize, but each of them has a different style of music.
Andre runs an MTSU-funded studio in Belize called ICI Ladyville Studio, which he gave everyone a virtual tour of. He also creates his own music from an early age.
“I wanted to start making electronic music and more original tracks… and that’s what I decided to do with my life, I wanted to be a DJ,” Andre said, “I want to modernize indigenous Belizean music. . ”
We’re trying to create a new Belizean sound.
André Medina – Head of the studio
André’s father, David Medina, was also present at the conference. David is a former MTSU concrete management student and now owns his own business in Belize called Medina Construction.
Justin Castillo is also a musician, but of a different style from André’s. Justin is a singer and songwriter who is a very small community in Belize.
“In Belize the artists all know each other, we are small but very connected,” Justin said in his soft voice.
“Music is not considered a real product in this country. Everyone who makes music, including me, is just freelance, ”said Justin,“ it’s a shame this isn’t taken seriously because there is a lot of talent in Belize. Unfortunately, talent alone cannot build an industry.
Andre sampled some of his beats and Justin performed two songs for the conference. One was an original piece called “Love and Affection” and the other was a cover of “Don’t Worry Be Happy” by Bobby McFerrin.
“Belizean music could be the greatest export this country has ever seen. They have to find a way to really implement it in elementary school, ”explained Justin.
MTSU is offering a study abroad program for RIM students in May 2022. Their specific goal is to promote music and music education in developing countries. Contact Professor Deborah Wagnon at [email protected] for more information.