Owen Simons and Erica Smith ‘humbled’ and ‘astonished’ by New Year’s honours
Two Bermudians last night described receiving New Year’s Honours as “humbling“ and ”astonishing“.
Owen Ellsworth Simons was honoured with a Queen’s Certificate and Badge of Honour for services to music education on the island.
Erica Smith, the executive director of the Bermuda Economic Development Corporation, also received the Queen’s Certificate and Badge of Honour for services to the community.
Mr Simons told The Royal Gazette: “I was honoured, surprised. They said there would be a ceremony later on – they aren’t having it right away because of Covid – so I will have to wait for additional information about the physical event.
“I was shocked because I didn’t even know I was nominated. It’s very humbling.
“Since Friday I’ve been getting calls and texts and WhatsApp messages with people giving me their congratulations and affirmations and people just being grateful.”
Mr Simons added that he did not get involved with musical education for the recognition, but because he wanted to give back.
He said: “I always wanted to teach choirs and groups. For most of my life I wanted to give back to my alma mater, the Bermuda Institute, so that is where I have been for the last 25 years.”
Mr Simons began playing the piano by ear at the age of three; his first job was playing at the Chapel on the US Naval Annexe, at what is now Morgan’s Point Southampton, and at the age of eight he was playing at weekly church services at Southampton Seventh Day Adventist Church.
By the age of 13 he was the organist at St Michael’s Roman Catholic Church in Paget and remained there until he left for college in 1988.
He graduated from Oakwood University with a bachelor’s degree in music education in 1994 and obtained his Master of Education in music from Alabama A & M University in 1996.
Mr Simons returned to Bermuda in August 1996 and started working at the Bermuda Institute as the music teacher for grades K-3 and the choir director for the high school. To date he has also served as music teacher, choir director, Department of Humanities Head and vice-principal.
He has also served as the organist and choir director at the St Anne’s Anglican Church since 1996.
Mrs Smith said it was “truly astonishing and very surreal” to receive the honour – but that the credit should go to the BEDC team and board.
She said: “Without them and the incredible work they put in each and every day, going well over and beyond the call of duty constantly, especially over the last challenging couple of years, the positive impact made on Bermuda’s SME’s by BEDC would be negligible.
“My goal at BEDC is always to clear any barriers and step out of the way to allow them to do what they do best.
“I am extremely proud of the work BEDC does – it’s not always perfect – but it always comes from a place of wanting to assist, wanting to make a difference, and wanting to do better because our island’s business owners and entrepreneurs are worth it and the impact they make to Bermuda cannot be overlooked.”
Mrs Smith also thanked her husband, parents and sisters for their support.
During the pandemic Mrs Smith led a team which supported numerous local businesses and deployed more than $5 million in Covid-19 funding support to assist local small and medium-sized businesses.
Mrs Smith’s former roles include Bermuda’s only Director of the Economic Empowerment Zones Agency; Bermuda’s first Director of Sustainable Development and National Director of the Duke of Edinburgh Award in Bermuda.