Story by Ethan Pickering | Lifestyles Editor
Photos by Sam Long | Assistant Editor
Belizean students and musical artists spoke with an intellectual property law class at Middle Tennessee State University via Zoom. They shared their own colorful and personal stories about the musical culture and scene in the country of Belize today.
The virtual meeting was arranged by Recording Industry professor and author of “International Classroom Initiative,” Deborah Wagnon. It was open to any MTSU student who was interested.
The Head of Media for Government of Belize, and cousin of the Belizean Prime Minister, Mr. Aaron Briceño, opened up the virtual conference with a brief intro of the state of music in Belize.
It is so important for people to come to Belize and discover the hidden gems that we have of musicians and artists.Aaron Briceño – Head of Media for Government of Belize
Mr. Briceño also said that the Belizean government is encouraging development in many different industries across the small nation, including music. He emphasized the protective measures that the government has enacted recently that protects investments in these growing industries.
“I think that music is so under developed (in Belize) … and I think a lot can be done because there’s no shortage of talent,” said Mr. Briceño.
Belize hosts a plethora of musical culture, but has a challenging time sharing it with the world because of internet access issues, and infastructural capacities.
The next segment of the conference was led by University of Belize political lecturer, Ewart Robateau.
“We have lots of great talent, but not good enough industry to back it up,” Robateau explained, “We need to develop music into an export industry … I think we need to promote it in tourism and education.”
Accompanying Robateau were two University of Belize students: Carolyn Courtenay from Belize City, and David Rodriguez from Dangriga, Belize.
The two students took several questions from MTSU students about what Belizean culture was like in a university setting.
“It is approximately 2,000 students,” answered Carolyn when asked about the size of the university. David added that it was the main national university of Belize, but there were several campus locations all over the country.
“There isn’t much done on campus at the moment, all classes are done virtually,” said David regarding a question about how COVID-19 has impacted Belize education.
“I would prefer to be in class … there are more advantages to the questions you ask and the interaction with students,” added Carolyn.
Much like the United States, life in Belize has been affected by the pandemic.
“It’s a little bit okay though because you can enjoy class from the comforts of your living room,” David added.
The final group to virtually join the conference was Andre Medina and Justin Castillo, also know by his stage name J. Cas. Both Andre and Justin are Belize musicians, but each of them have a different style of music.
Andre manages a studio in Belize funded by MTSU, called the ICI Ladyville Studio, which he gave everyone a virtual tour of. He also creates his own music, and has from an early age.
“I wanted to start making electronic music and more original pieces … and that’s what I decided I wanted to do with my life, I wanted to be a DJ,” said Andre, “I want to modernize indigenous Belizean music.”
We are trying to create a new Belizean sound.Andre Medina – Studio manager
Andre’s father, David Medina, was also present during the conference. David is an MTSU alumni in concrete management and now owns his own business in Belize named Medina Construction.
Justin Castillo is also a musician, but of a different style that Andre. Justin is a singer and songwriter, which is a very small community in Belize.
“In Belize, the artists all know each other we are small but very connected,” said Justin in his soft voice.
“Music is not seen as a real product in this country. Everyone who does music, including myself, is just freelancing,” said Justin, “it is a shame that it is not taken seriously, because there is a lot of talent in Belize. Unfortunately talent alone can’t build an industry.”
Andre sampled some of his beats , and Justin played two songs for the conference. One was an original piece titled “Love and Affection” and the other was a cover of “Don’t Worry Be Happy” by Bobby McFerrin.
“Belizean music could be the biggest export this country has ever seen. They need to find a way to really implement it primary school,” elaborated Justin.
MTSU is offering a study abroad program for RIM students in May of 2022. Their specific goal is to promote music and musical education in developing countries. Contact Professor Deborah Wagnon at email@example.com for more information.