By JEFFARAH GIBSON
Tribune Features Writer
For pianist Elijah Stevens, the journey to funding his musical education continues to be a walk of faith. And though he has yet to raise all the money required to begin the Masters programme at the prestigious Manhattan School of Music, he plans on taking the risk to visit the school anyway and see what unfolds.
The 22-year-old hosted two concerts last week, in Freeport and in Nassau at the St Andrew's Presbyterian Kirk, to showcase the skills he has mastered over the last few years.
Funds from the event went directly to support Elijah's education. He hopes to study Classical Piano Performance in a Master's degree programme at his dream school and one of the world's leading international conservatories. There, he would be in the studio of the 2001 Van Cliburn piano competition winner Olga Kern, who has been his idol for a long time, and who is recognised as one of her generation's great artists.
He also plans to complete a dual degree programme between the Manhattan School of Music and Columbia University, which will allow him the opportunity to add a Master in Music Education to his performance degrees.
"My faith is very strong. Do you know what it is to start from $0 and end up raising $16,000. Although my goal was to raise a total of $65,000, I really had a great start. I am looking forward to seeing what happens," he told Tribune Religion.
Throughout the recent recital in Nassau, Elijah said guests were moved by his testimony of how he left the Bahamas unaccompanied at age 17 in 2013 with nothing but his faith, all his belongings, and $100 to pursue his dream of becoming a classical pianist and studying abroad in the United States.
He was denied a total of six scholarships in the Bahamas, which was devastating news for him, even though he was accepted to historically black university Bethune-Cookman University in Daytona Beach.
"Every day people have been reaching out saying they want to assist. So since then there have been a lot of opportunities that have come up," he said.
Elijah believes once in New York, more doors will open to facilitate his dream, although right now he does not have sufficient money to begin the Master's programme.
"I am going to do exactly what I always do, which is take a risk and just go to the school. My visa has been approved. I feel like that is another miracle," he said. "I can arrange a payment plan which would allow me to pay in instalments. And if that is approved I can hold various kinds of fundraising events to support my education while I am in school. I am also going to explore the kind of funding that is available there. But I have to get my foot in the door first. But there have just been so many signs for me to believe that this is going to happen."
A native of Freeport, Grand Bahama, Elijah began his musical studies at the age of 10 with Drea Woods-Rolle (daughter of Pamela Woods) at the Sidney Woods Music Academy.
His home church, Church of Christ Apostolic, under the leadership of Bishop Patterson Williams, afforded him his start as a pianist.
"Once I began taking lessons I immediately fell in love with the piano and spent countless hours practicing. This led to my appointment as the 2009 Sidney Woods Student of the Year... I became the most advanced student in only two years of lessons. In the 10th grade I transferred my musical studies to the Orchestral School of Music with Maestro Reynold Robinson, who was known for his exceptional work in band and his students' outstanding National Arts Festival prizes," he said.
It was Mr Robinson's mentorship, he said, which allowed him to flourish and take a leap of faith to travel to the US even after being denied Bahamian scholarships.
Elijah said he is grateful to all who have supported him thus far on his journey.