The Jamaica Observer’s Entertainment Desk continues with the 29th in its series during Child Month highlighting some of Jamaica’s young performers who shot to stardom.
Violinist Steven Woodham said he knew by age eight that the instrument was calling to him. He was enrolled at the Noel Foster-Davis School of Music in Kingston before hitting the global stage five years later.
“My mother played the violin so there was always a violin in the house, and then by age eight I was already at Noel Foster-Davis School of Music learning to play professionally,” the Kingston-born Woodham told the Jamaica Observer.
“By age 13, I was touring…I went to the National Music Camp in Michigan, America, and I also did completions in Canada spearheaded by the Kiwanis Club.”
His playing was also fine-tuned by tutors Takács Miklósné and Peter Lissauer of Hungary and American Lynn Chang.
Woodham — who lists Johann Sebastian Bach, Ludwig van Beethoven and Gustav Mahler as his favourite composers — has won a number of local and international competitions, including the Jamaica Festivals 1971-73, the Toronto Kiwanis Music Festival 1974 (Canada), the Jamaica Music Industry Awards (JAMI) 1992, the Lipizer International Violin Competition 1993 (Italy), and the American Chamber of Commerce of Jamaica (AMCHAM) Award for Excellence in Arts and Culture 2014.
In 2010, he was invited to invigilate as an international jury member by the University of South Africa, for the UNISA International String Competition in Pretoria, South Africa.
Woodham disclosed that he always remained focused on the performing arts, even when ‘traditional’ career paths presented itself.
“The violin was one of my sort of recognised talents that got me a lot of positive feedback. Even now, I teach violin, but I’m a performer first. I think it’s one of the most valuable things — for me to share my knowledge. There was always a big space as to what I wanted to do career-wise; whether it was architecture or medicine. But the opportunity came for me to go to Franz Liszt Academy of Music, Budapest in Hungary. It was an opportunity that I couldn’t give up,” he explained.
Over the past 30 years, Woodham has dedicated considerable time and energy to music education in Jamaica as Artist-in-Residence and conductor of the Immaculate Conception High School Symphony Orchestra, and as private tutor to many young violinists. In 2014, he was conferred with the Order of Distinction for his dedication to education and the development of classical music and the symphony orchestra in Jamaica.
Woodham hopes to see greater appreciation for the violin in Jamaica.
“When we reach a certain level of education then we will learn that music is a form a creativity and expression, and violin is one of those forms of expression,” he said.