Easter has always been a period of sharing for Vanessa Briggs.
The Sangre Grande-born gospel singer and vocal coach usually enjoys a hectic schedule of performances at church services, weddings and other Easter events at this time of year.
That all changed last year when the ongoing global Covid-19 pandemic forced authorities to close worship houses and restrict gatherings, before eventually going into a total lockdown. The limited reopening of public spaces and the arrival of the COVAX vaccine in T&T, earlier this week, has however given Briggs hope that things can soon return to some semblance of normalcy.
“Easter has always been a period of rest and reflection for me. Traditionally, I attend and serve at church. Additionally, I’m often required to perform at church-based Easter events or at weddings. Last year that didn’t happen as we were in the heart of the pandemic,” an amiable Briggs started saying during an online exchange with the Kitcharee on Thursday morning.
“I’m thankful that this year I’m still able to do most of what I’ve grown used to, despite the necessary restrictions, cautionary and precautionary measures to be observed. Spending time with my daughter Maegan is also priority,” she added.
A test of faith
Briggs says her music is a testament to the trials she has had to overcome in her personal life. Juggling her role as a parent and teacher at her self-titled Vocademy vocal school all while managing a singing career has been a challenge, she admits.
Her belief in her God has seen her through, she said. It’s a real everyday experience she breathes into her music and one she plans to continue to share on her upcoming EP (extended play) album with music production siblings Nathanael and Daniel Hamilton of Fisherman Project.
“Although I grew up in a Christian environment, everything I’ve learnt about Christ and Christianity has been tested. As a parent, entrepreneur and as an artiste. I’ve experienced God’s faithfulness, grace and peace in every season of my life. Now I sing about what I believe, and I try to live what I write about,” she admitted openly.
The pandemic also put a financial strain on Vocademy as they were forced to close their doors for an extend period, she revealed. She credited her vocal coaches Rebekah Matthews and Lydon Maynard with helping her continue classes online.
“It was challenging for my staff and I. Both our south and east on-site locations were closed for the entire duration. However, I’m beyond grateful for my coaches Rebekah and Lyndon, since they were extremely important in how well we pivoted onto the virtual platform. Some of our students continued with us. That was encouraging for me. Our clients received a service they enjoyed and we were happy to provide it,” she said.
A blessing in disguise
While the lockdown was financially and logistically challenging Briggs said the downtime proved wonders for her creative process.
“I’ve possibly written more music during the pandemic than I have in a pretty long time. There was the much-needed down time to rest, recalibrate my life, reflect on the things that matter, create and re-brand,” she said.
She also spent the downtime rethinking and repositioning her brand as a music educator and the role she sees her academy playing in the lives of her students. She said there are already “solid plans” to reopen the school’s on-site locations before year end.
“As the vocal school continues to work toward automating our vocal training service, we’re also aiming to improve on the quality of training we currently provide to our virtual clients locally, internationally and in the Caribbean.
“The feedback from persons who appreciate my music has been extremely encouraging. I feel like my music can help alleviate some of the fear and pain that exists. Messages of hope can be deeply healing,” she concluded with a wide smile.