Karen Smith (left) and her daughter Courtni Jackson at a wedding at Round HillHotel and Villas in Montego Bay, St James, in July of this year.
Scholarship fund set up to celebrate late singer

Songbird Karen Smith is to be remembered through the establishment of a scholarship fund to assist students at the School of Music at Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts in Kingston.

This initiative is being spearheaded by the Music Unites Foundation, co-founded by the husband-and-wife team of Peter Ashbourne and Rosina Christina Moder.

Smith, who died on September 11 and will be buried on Wednesday, worked with Ashbourne on a number of his projects and is fondly remembered by the couple for her talent and generosity of spirit.

According to Moder, the foundation spearheaded another scholarship drive in memory of vocalist Tiffany Thompson, who died earlier this year and, after this was achieved, it was realised that there is great need for more funds for deserving students.

“During the section processes, I heard so many tragic stories of students and their needs. Thanks to the Belgian embassy in Jamaica, we were able to cover that scholarship, we thought it best to establish another in memory of our dear Karen,” Moder told the Jamaica Observer.

She is, therefore, issuing a a plea for persons to contribute to this fund to benefit students at the School of Music, where Smith's daughter, Courtni, is also a student. The details regarding the donation process are explained on the Music Unites Foundation website.

Many Jamaicans first became aware of Smith through the Grace Cock Soup television advertisement, which was composed by Ashbourne. He also chose her for the 1992 commission, The Winds of Hope, which he composed with lyrics by Alvin Campbell. This was the soundtrack of Jamaica's exploits at the Olympics in Barcelona. Smith was also a vocalist, along with Michael Sean Harris for the e-Park Bank, which Ashbourne led.

“I can't begin to tell you how shaken Peter is at Karen's passing. He was one of those persons who was very instrumental in her career from the earliest days when she was still at the bank. In one of her last public appearances in July of this year, she accompanied her daughter who was performing at a wedding at Round Hill Hotel [in Montego Bay]. She symbolically passed on the microphone to Courtni, while Peter passed on the keyboards to our son, Joele, who accompanied her,” said Moder.

“She is certainly one of, if not the most beloved Jamaican musical performer. I'm not speaking of the reggae stars, but as a performer she was able to touch so many lives. Just think of the thousands of tourists who she performed for and they left with a great impression of Jamaica and Jamaicans. Everybody has a great story about meeting Karen. This is a hard gap to fill as she was truly one in a million. Her smile alone said it all. Then she had the divine strength and unusual gift to reach each individual in an audience and make you feel as if she was singing just for you. She gave her all every time,” said Moder.

BY RICHARD JOHNSON Observer senior reporter johnsonr@jamaicaobserver.com

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