IG handle: @mjtt868
FB page: @melissajimenezTT
Can you tell us a little about yourself and the position you hold as MusicTT’s GM?
Many persons are familiar with me as being a practitioner on the arts & culture and NGO scene. I am either in chorale performances with the UWI Arts Chorale, working behind the scenes or performing on-stage in a musical with Must Come See Productions, volunteering on yet another community project or assisting my friends and colleagues with their next business idea or event venture. I’ve also explored and dabbled in travel tours (for creatives), spearheaded Google Startup Weekend (for creatives) and currently researching the Digital Nomad lifestyle (for creatives) … see the pattern there? Can we just state unequivocally that, my heart and mind are “for Creatives”, always, and have an aww moment?
Professionally, I have over 10 years experience in arts and entertainment and just about the same in NGO marketing and development. As the General Manager of the Trinidad and Tobago Music Company Limited (MusicTT), I carry the torch (supported by a fantastic team) in helping to stimulate business development and export activity in the Music sector for Trinidad and Tobago. I’ve been with MusicTT for a little over 2 years and God willing, looking forward to many more.
When did you first realize you wanted to pursue a career in the music industry?
So, funny story, during the primary school stage, I always told my parents that I wanted to become a concert pianist and play with the Boston Symphony Orchestra or be an opera singer (yes I was that weird little child that had an affinity for classical music) so I continued piano lessons which I started at 3 years old and also joined the school choir.
Fast forward to the Secondary School stage, I started focusing more on being a Music Educator and let’s just say that while I kept up with piano classes, I realized very quickly that I hated to practice. Singing, now that came naturally to me so I continued on with the school choir there as well. I went on to do Music for CSEC and did my final performances of Grade 7 pieces on both the descant recorder, and voice as well as performed Grade 4 steelpan ensemble pieces.
Fast forward again to UWI, this is where I learned that I absolutely hated arranging music and jazz theory but more so that Music Education was not the path I wanted to pursue. Being consumed by only music courses for the first two years had me stir crazy. Finally, we were able to choose electives from areas outside of music. This is where I started dabbling in cultural business and economic type courses and there lay the passion of Arts Administration that fit snuggly into my need to organize, develop business ideas and of course, the arts – so naturally, music was my go-to niche. After UWI, I spent 3 years researching universities in the US that was the perfect fit for me and applied for the Fulbright scholarship. All thanks to God, I was successful and went on to Columbia College Chicago to further explore Arts, Media and Entertainment Management. (Quick side note, Chicago’s weather and wind is CRAZY!!! The movies certainly did not lie!)
Who has been your biggest mentors in this industry and what was the best advice they gave?
I have had many mentors at different stages of my journey. Most notably would be Evette Graham, Jessel Murray, Jean Raabe and Kari Sommers. I can’t recall any of those lofty, wonderful sayings that they would have imparted over the years but they all echoed the same principles, which are: seek God first in all that you do, be kind to others, and learn when to say No. The latter is a lesson of particular importance to many, especially in this industry that is already time-demanding.
The music industry has changed so much in the past few years, what’s the best advice you would give for staying ahead of the curve?
It is quite daunting when you think of how quickly things change globally in the music industry and all the information you have to try and consume on a daily basis to keep abreast. My advice for persons thinking of being a part of the Music Industry would be to:
· Really think about whether or not this is what you want to do, especially if you’re thinking of becoming an artiste as it calls for major dedication.
· Google alerts setting is your friend if you’re trying to keep abreast of news specific to your needs.
· Have a forever-learner mindset. There is always something new to learn as changes happen rapidly. If you think you know everything, then you’ve already lost the race.
Is Trinidad and Tobago making an impact on the international scale in the music industry?
Trinidad and Tobago music is popping up everywhere; from neighboring Caribbean Islands, USA and Canada to India, Bali, Dubai, Singapore, Australia, China, Japan and Korea. From calypso and soca music to the sweet sounds of steelpan – they are everywhere! While there is significant international impact especially within communities/states/countries where a significant number of our diaspora has settled, there is still quite a tremendous amount of work still to be done.
What motivates you to push the music industry as a viable market investment in Trinidad and Tobago?
The Music industry possesses a high potential for enhanced earnings and contribution to the country’s GDP, due in large part to the innate creative genius of our people, our rich cultural diversity which feeds into creative works, the organic growth and evolution of the sub-sector, and the opportunities for training and education. This has been successfully proven most recently in markets such as Korea – with K-Pop and Africa – with Afro beats. Development of the Music Industry, can bolster businesses and drive sustainability of operations, profitability and exportability of creative exports in music, while organising the sector and stimulating high-level conversations on the global creative economy.
According to UNESCO’s “Creative Economy Report 2013”, “when the creative sector becomes part of an overall development and growth strategy, it can contribute to the revitalization of the national economy where hybrid and dynamic economic and cultural exchanges occur and innovation is nurtured. But that is not all. Investing in culture and the creative sector as a driver of social development can also lead to results that contribute to the overall well-being of communities, individual self-esteem and quality of life, dialogue and cohesion.”
So, in non-technical language, what motivates me to push…? I believe that there is truly no limit to Trinbago’s creativity and potential to break into global markets. I want the world to see the us and by extension the Caribbean as not only an ideal vacation destination but know us for our explosive talent and admirable cultural diversity.
How can filmmakers work with MusicTT?
The creative industry as a whole cannot operate in silos – musical theatre is a prime example of that where all the performing arts disciplines unite, with technical crews, management crews, designers and builders. That said, MusicTT has a database of music practitioners that can support both local and international films. Some of the job titles include: singers, songwriters, music producers, audio engineers, composers, arrangers, musical directors and other areas of expertise
How can we connect with a MusicTT stakeholder?
At this stage, you can email email@example.com and any of our Project Officers would be happy to assist. Coming soon, will be a public database allowing you to search for stakeholders with ease. You can also check out the Artist Registry which will provide you with a wealth of creative industry professionals (not just music stakeholders).
What was the biggest setback you have faced in your career and how did you overcome it?
Throughout my career, I’ve always been the youngest person in what may be perceived as substantial positions. To compound that, whenever I entered junior positions, I was always quickly advanced through the ranks. With that always came an initial (sometimes continuous) uphill battle when working with new organizations by members who were quick to doubt and judge before allowing me time to get assimilated so that they can see what I can bring to the table.
Spiritually, leaning on my faith and trusting God to guide me is my go-to way to overcome this and many other adversities that come my way. On a more practical level, I work to overcome this by making my intentions clear to team-members, learning their likes/dislikes and ways in which they assimilate information, pay attention to their work flow and learn the culture of the organization. I tend to create a team player, co-working type of atmosphere rather than dwell on hierarchy and titles which in my experience can sometimes cause division. I place emphasis of focusing on the work and tasks given, ensuring that I meet and exceed the deliverables outlined by my portfolio and my Supervisors. And, of course, where I can lend a hand to other team members or departments, I will.