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Shadaunte hopes to inspire future students

Photo by Akil SimmonsGiving back: Shadaunte Tucker dreams of becoming a music teacher at The Berkeley Institute

The sound of violins playing changed Shadaunte Tucker’s life.

“I was 15,” he said. “I awoke one morning in the summer and heard violins playing over the radio. I thought, ‘What’s that beautiful sound? I could be a violinist’.”

He took to the internet to learn everything he could and eventually taught himself to play the violin, piano, bass guitar and saxophone.

“I know, you want to know if I can really play,” the now 19-year-old said. “If you want to know if I can play, come to the Summer Jazz Jam.”

He graduated from the Berkeley Institute a year ago, and will perform at the Berkeley Educational Society scholarship fundraiser on Saturday, alongside Gita Blakeney-Saltus, Piece of the Rock, Paradise and others.

He took private saxophone lessons in middle school, but dumped them as soon as he reached Berkeley.

“I lost interest,” he said. “My parents were supportive but they didn’t really make me play.”

Then, in the summer of his second year of high school he awoke to hear violins playing.

“I think they were playing over the radio,” said the teenager. “I thought, ‘What is that beautiful music?’”

On discovering what it was, he figured he could play the same.

Instead of lessons though, he took to YouTube.

“I didn’t have a violin yet but I became a violin freak,” he said. “I was looking at everything I could about violins.”

His YouTube lessons continued throughout high school although his teachers taught him the rudiments of music and tried hard to encourage him.

“I would sometimes skip classes to hang out in the music room,” he said. “The music teacher, John Woolridge, would answer any questions I had about music. He inspired me so much.”

His first gig came just six months after he first took up the violin.

“I played at the opening and closing ceremonies of The Annual Exhibition,” he said. “That went really well.

“I was never really academic, but I owe a lot to the school. The music teachers there, including Karen Carlington, the string teacher, really supported me. I don’t think I would be the man I am without their support.”

He now regularly volunteers in the school music room, helping to teach lessons.

“It’s to gain some experience,” he said.

His dream is to one day return to Berkeley as a teacher.

“I can’t think of anything better than inspiring other students the way I was inspired,” he said. “If you want to support me, please come out to the jam. These scholarships are really important.”

At the moment, he has a part-time job in a restaurant to raise money to go abroad to study.

He hasn’t yet decided on a school.

The Summer Jazz Jam is on Saturday at 7pm in the Berkeley Institute courtyard. Tickets, $50 for patrons, $30 general admission and $25 for seniors, are available at Harbourmaster and at the Berkeley Institute by calling 705-9103 or 332-0226.

<p>Winners of Educational Society scholarships</p>

I can’t come out to play because I have to study.

It’s something that was said repeatedly by the three winners of this year’s Berkeley Educational Society scholarships.

Malik Alick said he had lost many friends over the years because his music came first.

The 18-year-old, who won the $2,500 Austin R Thomas scholarship, plays piano, drums and the saxophone. He hopes to study jazz at Concordia University in Quebec in September.

“I often had to tell friends I couldn’t come to a party because I had to practice,” he said. “I liked football but I had to give that up to focus on music.”

Applicants for the Austin R Thomas scholarship had to be male graduates of the Berkeley Institute who overcame obstacles to achieve academic excellence.

“I think the biggest obstacle was the sacrifice,” Malik said. “Sometimes I wondered if it was all really worth it. It was.”

He comes from a family of musicians. His father, Melvin, is a guitarist who has played all over the United States. His older brother, Melvin Jr, is also a musician.

“When I was little, my parents suspected I might be musical from the way I would bang the pots and pans together. Then three ministers who were visiting my father from overseas, prayed over me, asking that I be musical.”

The prayers paid off. He took drum lessons at eight and has performed in concerts since he was ten.

He’ll take the stage to play piano in the Summer Jazz Jam on Saturday.

“I want to be a professional music composer,” he said. “I want to hear my music played all over the world.”

Shalika Robinson was kept busy by studies at Berkeley and the Bermuda College this past year.

The 17-year-old won the first of two $2,500 Austin David Wilson Memorial Awards for academic excellence.

“We had to get up first thing in the morning to make classes for 8am,” she said. “I think balancing everything was the biggest obstacle for me.”

She took two English classes at the Bermuda College.

“English isn’t necessarily my strongest subject,” she said. “I am stronger in the sciences. I was already taking several classes in math at Berkeley so I didn’t want to do that at the Bermuda College. I really didn’t find the classes at the Bermuda College that hard.”

She developed “a fascination with doctors” while accompanying her diabetic mother Lindan on her medical appointments.

The teenager plans to focus on cardiology as a career.

“In my biology classes I was fascinated with the heart,” she said. “I loved dissection.”

If Kezia Battersbee lost play time as a child, it was probably because she was too busy arguing.

The 17-year-old would debate with her friends for hours on a range of topics.

“My friends know I will not stop arguing until they either admit I am right or say they see my point of view,” she said. “Until that happens we are not finishing this argument.”

She received the second of Austin David Wilson Memorial Award.

She is off to Acadia University in Canada in September to study criminal law.

“My mother made me read really advanced books when I was a child,” she said. “She had me reading Anne Frank: Diary of a Young Girl when I was nine years old. I also read To Kill a Mockingbird as a child, and Jane Eyre.”

Today, thanks to her mother’s prompting, she loves to read.

“I read anything and whenever I can,” she said.