WHO WE ARE
EXECUTIVE BOARD & COMMITTEE
Cynthia Van Wynen
President & Executive Director
Executive Secretary &
Dr. Christine Gangelhoff
Vice President & Artistic Director
Social Media Coordinator
Volunteer Corps Coordinator
Press & Media Coordinator
EDWARD CLEMENT BETHEL
Edward Clement Bethel was born on February 11, 1938, the sixth and last child of the late Edward and Lilias Bethel of East Bay Street, Nassau. He was educated at public schools in Nassau, and completed his secondary education at the Government High School where many other lifelong friendships were forged.
Clement displayed musical talent at a very early age and played the piano by ear even before he received formal music lessons. When he was eleven, a prize-winning story in a Tribune Christmas competition earned him three months of piano lessons with Mrs. Meta Davis Cumberbatch, the legendary musician, teacher and poet.
In 1957, he received a Bahamas Government Scholarship to pursue advanced studies in piano and composition at the Royal Academy of Music, London. He received his Licentiate Diploma in piano teaching and his Graduate Diploma (the equivalent of a Bachelor’s degree) from that institution. He was awarded a teacher’s certificate from the Institute of
Education of London University. He returned to the Academy in 1964 to pursue a performer’s diploma, and in 1965 was awarded the Associate of the Royal College of Music Diploma in Performing, with Honours.
In 1976 he received a Fulbright-Hays Fellowship to pursue graduate studies leading to a Master’s degree in Ethnomusicology at the University of California, Los Angeles. His interest in the Bahamian Junkanoo festival, which had begun in his youth, was deepened by this research that sought expressly to confirm that Bahamian music and its unique manifestation in Junkanoo were subjects worthy of serious scholarly study.
Clement’s professional career at home in The Bahamas spanned some twenty-six years. He taught music at all levels of the government education system, from primary school to Teachers’ College. In 1968, he was appointed the first Deputy Head of the newly founded Highbury High School (now R.M. Bailey Senior High), leaving that post in 1969 to join the recently created Curriculum Division of the Ministry of Education and Culture as Education Officer for Music and Drama. In 1973, he was named Cultural Affairs Officer, and became Director when a Department of Cultural Affairs was established. This last post he occupied until his death.
While pursuing his full -time professional career, Clement was also actively involved in complementary cultural activities. He became a member of the organizing committee of the Music Festival very soon after his return to The Bahamas in 1961 and was later its Chairman. He assisted his former teacher, Mrs. Cumberbatch, in the organization of the Nassau Festival of Arts and Crafts which provided another showcase for Bahamian talent. In 1968, he founded The Bahamas Music Society, which was incorporated as The Nassau Music Society in 1978. He helped to organize the Folklore Shows presented each year during Goombay Summer and, also in 1968, led a group of performing and visual artists to take part in the Cultural Olympics, held in Mexico City as part of the activities associated with the Olympic Games. It was for that occasion that the first version of The Legend of Sammie Swain was written—as the music for a ballet. In 1965, Clement took over the direction of the Nassau Renaissance Singers and remained the choir’s conductor until his death in 1987.
His responsibilities as Cultural Affairs Officer / Director of Culture involved Clement extensively in significant national and regional activities. Perhaps the most important of the national events in which he played a major role were those associated with the Independence Celebrations in 1973. He served as Artistic Director/ Composer/ Arranger for the cultural show that preceded the Flag-raising Ceremony, and for the Folklore show performed in the presence of H.R.H. the Prince of Wales. He was also overall coordinator of other events such as the Youth Rally and Choral Concert. He performed similar functions on a number of other occasions, the most notable, perhaps, being his efforts in 1985, when he coordinated all cultural activities arranged for the visit to The Bahamas of Her Majesty the Queen for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting.
He lectured on Bahamian music and culture at home and abroad and served on regional and Commonwealth-wide Arts Committees. Having represented The Bahamas at the initial CARIFESTA held in Georgetown, Guyana, in 1972, Clement later led groups of artists and performers to participate in those events in 1979 and 1981. Sammie Swain was expanded into a full-scale folk opera in 1983 and from that date was performed at various times and in various settings, most notably before H.M. Queen Elizabeth II and the Commonwealth Heads of Government in 1985. In a different vein, under Clement’s direction the Nassau Renaissance Singers came to be regarded as one of the finest choirs in The Bahamas and the group’s annual Christmas concerts, held at Government House, were firmly established as an important feature of the Bahamian Christmas season.
Clement Bethel was married to the former Keva Eldon. The couple had two children, Nicolette and Edward, whom he loved unreservedly and of whom he was always very proud. He bequeathed to them a rich legacy of creative intelligence, passion for the arts, commitment to community and country and, not least of all, indomitable humour. Despite his full and demanding professional life, Clement always managed to find time to enjoy being with his family and his many friends. He died in August of 1987, at the age of 49, after a lengthy illness.
Written by: Keva Bethel
HONORARY LIFETIME MEMBERS
JoAnn DeVeaux-Callender, Soprano, is a living treasure of the Bahamas. Singing since the age of three, and performing in Canada, Europe, the Middle East, the USA, and the Caribbean including: Cuba, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, and Guyana. Joann DeVeaux-Callender has performed for numerous heads of state under the patronages of the Governor General and Government of The Bahamas, the United Nations and the Organization of American States. Most notably, she sang the role of Sister Josetta in the presence of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, in the October, 1985 production of the Bahamian Folk Opera “The Legend of Sammie Swain", and reprised the role in October 2013. On June 15, 2013 JoAnn presented an all Bahamian composed concert, “A Celebration of Bahamian Composers” held at Christ Church Cathedral, Nassau, Bahamas. She has performed with the Florence South Carolina Orchestra, University of Miami Orchestra, Chamber Orchestra of Nazareth College Rochester, New York, and the highly-acclaimed Moscow Soloists Orchestra under the direction of violist/conductor Yuri Bashmet. She is also a poet, lyricist, playwright and composer. She is a published author and most recently published the book
“Breastless Beauty: A collection of poems and photographs”. In January 2017 she became adjunct faculty as vocal instructor at the University of the Bahamas. JoAnn has most recently been appointed to The Bahamas National Commission of UNESCO on Culture.
Ralph Munnings' introduction to music started at the age of 16 when he began taking clarinet lessons from his late uncle Freddie Munnings Sr., who was a clarinet and saxophone player. The lessons were infrequent over a nine month period, so, the young Munnings picked up the saxaphone which he thought was a bit more "glamorous." The budding musician applied his limited clarinet skills to the saxophone and after two years of self-teaching caught the attention of his uncle who encouraged Ralph to join his band as an understudy. This provided all the motivation Munnings needed to propel his musicianship to the next level, listening to jazz records and playing at every opportunity. During that stint with the band, he had the privilege of playing for many of the international stars that appeared at the Cat & Fiddle Night Club, Nat "King" Cole, Dinah Washington, Brook Benton, Flip Wilson, Sam & Dave to name a few. Munnings soon became proficient enough to play with many of the local bands, and that experience has served him well throughout his career. In 1961, Munnings met the internationally
acclaimed Flautist Hubert Laws, with whom he studied harmony and theory. Fast forwarding to 1968, Munnings joined the Vince Martin Quartet at the Montagu Beach Hotel where a life-long musical friendships were forged with Denis Donaldson, Bass, Apple Elliott, piano and Bertram Lord, drums. In 1972, along with "Apple" and Denis, Munnings joined the Don Reagan Orchestra at Le Cabaret Theatre on Paradise Island and in 1974, he and "'Apple" were offered jobs in Freeport at the El Casino Show Lounge. Munnings stayed with the band for 18 years and has been performing with Vice Versa at The Blue Note, Baha Mar since 2017.
John Berkeley Taylor was born on June 20th, 1935 in Nassau, Bahamas and earned the nickname ‘Peanuts’, by which he has been fondly known ever since, when he was four. It all started on a walk home from primary school in the late 1930’s when precocious little John slipped into the famous Paul Meeres Club, watched with eager eyes as Paul rehearsed and then mischievously shouted “ I can sing and dance better than you!” Meeres retorted, “Ok you little Peanut, show me”, and was so impressed with John’s song and dance routine that he hired the youngster. Thus began a lifetime relationship between the veteran entertainer and the aspiring young performer. The name Peanuts stuck with him and over the course of the next 14 years, he entertained locals and visitors to the Bahamas. When he was five years old, Peanuts danced for the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. By the time he was eighteen, Peanuts had discovered his calling as a powerful drummer. The beat and rhythm came naturally from deep within, catching the attention of George Symonette, the renowned Calypsonian who also became a strong influence in his life. George and Peanuts went on to fill engagements at all major hotels in Nassau and made several popular
recordings. In the 1950’s, Peanuts, under the direction and appointment of Sir Stafford Sands and Sir Roland Symonette, became a ‘cultural ambassador’ on behalf of the Development Board and travelled throughout Europe, the U.S.A. and Canada on tourism missions, promoting the music and culture of The Bahamas. During these years Peanuts brought his talents to groups of 40,000 in Germany, appeared on many television shows and worked in California with Nat King Cole. Throughout his career, Peanuts Taylor owned and operated a series of his own nightclubs, opening the first, Tropicana, when he was 22, followed by Goombay in 1960. His most popular and famous club opened its doors on Sunday 29 March 1964 on the site of the renowned Paul Meeres Theater on Market and Fleming Street. The Drumbeat ran for thirty years as a very popular native nightclub in Nassau. Over the years, Peanuts received many awards for the gift of his talent, including the Laurette Merit of Honor from the National Trade Union of the Cuban Culture, being the first non Cuban to receive such an honor. In the 1990’s Peanuts received an Honorary Doctorate as Professor of Music from the University of Havana, School of Music.
Nathaniel Adams Jr.
Nancy B. Kelly
Anna Maria Albek
Mario Albek, Dilys Anderson
J Barrie Farrington
Susan Sargent Farrington
Cecile Dean Hastie
Stephane St. Onge
Linda J Thomson
Visual Artist, 2019-2020 Concert Season
Lillian Blades was born in Nassau, Bahamas in 1973 and currently resides in Atlanta, GA. She holds a BFA in Painting from the Savannah College of Art & Design, and and MFA from Georgia State University. In addition, Lillian has studied at the s Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in Maine and Caversham in KwaZulu Natal, South Africa.
Lillian’s works are predominately mixed media assemblages and are made with an assortment of materials, both found and constructed. Her childhood home of The Bahamas, ancestral background of West Africa, and her late mother, who was a seamstress, influences her art. These influences appear through the use of her color palette and objects that evoke memory and history.
Her work has appeared in solo and group exhibitions throughout various galleries in the United States, as well as The Bahamas, Trinidad, Germany and South Africa. Her public commissions include Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport and Jean Childs Young Middle School. Her artwork is also in the collection of the Birmingham Museum of Art and the National Art Gallery of The Bahamas.
Lillian was recently a recipient of the “Excellence in Arts” award from The Bahamas Consulate in Atlanta, GA, as well as the “Visual Artist of the Year” award by the National Black Arts Festival (NBAF), both 2016. Lillian is also featured in The Mint Museum’s first large-scale exhibition to explore the dynamic medium of collage entitled "Under Construction: Collage from The Mint Museum" which opened in December of 2018. Most recently she was ‘Artist in Residence” at The Current: Baha Mar Gallery & Art Center and her commissioned work “Where the Ocean Meets the Sand” is on display as part of the Fairwinds Exhibition in the Baha Mar Convention Center.
Visual Artist, 2018-2019 Concert Season
Natascha Vazquez (b. 1990, Spain) is an abstract painter whose work focuses on energetic interactions between biomorphic forms. She highlights these relationships in a sculptural way, creating a sense of 3-dimensionality through layered surfaces using mixed media. There is a high-energy interplay of forms that allude to a kind of movement, contradictory to painting which is completely flat. The viewer is left contemplating the construction of the work, questioning where it might have started and ended, and its relationship with our surroundings. Vazquez draws inspiration from biology - forms in her work often imitate our own bodies and the organic world in which we live.
Vazquez has an MFA in Painting from The Savannah College of Art and Design and a BFA in Painting from Rollins College, Florida. She has exhibited her work in both solo and group exhibitions and fairs in The Bahamas, France and The United States. Her work is a part of various collections, including The Savannah College of Art and Design Permanent Collection, The Dawn Davies Collection and The D’Aguilar Art Foundation. Vazquez is presently the Curator at The Current Studio and Gallery in Nassau, The Bahamas.
Visual Artist, 2017-2018 Concert Season
John Cox, born in 1973, is a Bahamian artist whose mixed-media paintings and assemblages use familiar and ordinary objects to reference distant places and ideas. In addition to his art practice, Cox is also a major part of the Bahamian art scene whose works as an educator, curator, cultural activist and founder of Popopstudios International Center for the Visual Arts has helped grow and redefine art in The Bahamas.
Through the years, he has helped to redefine “Bahamian art”, making him an important figure in the lives of many up-and-coming Bahamian artists.
In 1999 Cox found Popopstudios International Center for the Visual Arts, a dynamic, evolving hub for the Bahamian community with artist studio spaces, a gallery, international, local and student residencies, and education and programming. He remains as Director of Popopstudios, helping to support the growth of contemporary Bahamian art.
He taught for a year at St. Andrew’s School in Nassau. Cox currently works as the creative art director at Baha Mar were he along with his all Bahamian team of creatives runs The Current; an arts platform that focuses on the promotion Bahamian art and culture to the world.