Sheldon Eugene: a gifted Dominican musician
It is strange that many international and music greats have actually honed their skill out of the Church environment. Many of the Motown greats such as Whitney Houston, the Jackson 5, Stevie Wonder, Diana Ross, Smoky Robinson and an extensive list can trace their beginnings to church choirs and their youthful involvement there. In the Caribbean, calypsonians such as Kings Short-Shirt, Obstinate, and Reggae acts like Lieutenant Stitchie, Marcia Griffiths, Burning Flames brothers and our own King Brakes and Shaky have come from and eventually returned to the church pews from whence they came.
Well, Dominica itself has a rich history of musicians whose foundation and development can be attributed to the Church. End-time Singers, Corrine Durand, Herby Jack, Elisha Dalrymple, Jerry Lloyd, Eddy Angol are just some of Dominica's most outstanding performers before the turn of this century.
One outstanding musician who has not been heralded, an unsung hero, is Sheldon Eugene who resides in Bath Estate. Surely if he was a secular musician you would have heard of him, just as we know about any of the top keyboardists on island such as Cornel, Fitzroy, Brent Samuel, Earlson Matthew, Julie Martin or Armstrong James.
Sheldon is an exceptional talent who I am sure is even blushing at this fact as he is one who does not like to be in the lime light, but it's true. Not only does he possess natural ability and skill as a musician but like Armstrong, he was formally trained from the very young age of eight. He was first introduced and taught the keyboards, his favorite instrument, by his sister who once attended the Valena Letang music class.
But there was even a greater influence on his music journey for which he is forever grateful; Brother Dan of blessed memory actually taught him to read the music sheet, play the clarinet and when he was unable to teach him because of his age, he gave him a scholarship which allowed him to pay his way to Mrs. Letang music school.
Sheldon says he draw his inspiration from Jazz pianist extraordinaire, Oscar Peterson, because of the great skill he exhibited on the keys.
Today Sheldon is part of the Music Lovers Government Band, not as a Keyboardist, but as one of the saxophonist under the directorship of his former tutor. Though it's been almost 14 years since he had been with the band he just gets absorbed with the other members and very few realizes his immense talent. So one may hear about a Bing Casimir, the Letangs, boy wonder Jarett Jean Jacques or the pumping bassist, but little is known of Sheldon as he silently, skillfully executes his notes without any fanfare.
However, at the Christian Union Church (C.U. C) in Roseau, Sheldon Eugene is not just a member of the church or the worship team. He co-ordinates/directs the music and is a genius in his own right. He possesses fantastic skills at transpositions and has an uncanny ability to find keys and ranges for various singers. Almost every song attempted you can be sure that by the first few bars Sheldon is on point even if he might not have rehearsed.
I have been around many musicians and it's only Julie Martin whom I have witnessed with such attributes which make them stand out. Still Sheldon remains humble, soft-spoken, the keyboards do all the talking. It's even frightening at the thought of not having Sheldon around on a Sunday morning as has happened when he was out of commission for about a year. Though the replacement was solid, talents like his is hard to replace or substituted.
His techniques have been further advanced by training he received at a music training camp for a duration of two weeks in North Dakota in the USA where he was exposed to some of the finest musicians. This, he states, was one of the most memorable occasions in his musical career.
Still Sheldon has been underutilized in the Dominican musical landscape and part of the reason is because he is not a secular artiste.
Sheldon states that "At the core of my life is my relationship with Jesus Christ. Being raised in church and giving my heart to the Lord definitely paid off and is paying off. He blessed me with the gift/talent/ ability to play music by ear and I have used it for him thus far by playing in church and being a testimony of his grace in my life.
Sheldon's vision for the future is the creation of a music academy for mentoring and nurturing musicians particularly in the Jazz genre
This multifaceted musician says the highlights of his career has been accompanying the Sisserou Singers, the MMTS Singers on their gospel night concert fund raiser en route to Bahamas last year and accompanying the artiste Janae on the song "Anchor" on her 2016 debut album.