"A young prodigy oozing with talent"- Canadian adjudicator Clifford Rawlins on Michael.
"I know that I have been blessed with a gift but I also realize that to whom much is given, much is expected and so I expect a lot from myself" - Michael.
Written by Barbara Jenkins (August, 2002)
San Fernandian twenty-one year old Michael Zephyrine in one of Trinidad and Tobago's most promising young musicians. Accepted into three of the top music conservatories in the world, he chose The Manhattan School of Music and is about to embark on his second year of study there.
Michael showed an early interest in music. In 1990, while he was still at primary school, the parang group, Los Chicos de Oro, with Michael as lead soloist, won the national finals of the Schools Parang Competition. In the same year, he placed forth in the highly competitive television show '12 and Under'
At Presentation College, under the tutelage of the musical director, Mrs. Cynthia Lee Mack, Michaels's vocal and instrumental capabilities as well as his dramatic gifts were more widely explored, most notably in the school's production of the musical 'Waltz Without End'. He won the school's calypso competition for three consecutive years, and, as Presentation College's representative, was first runner up in the inter-school national finals. With friends, he established KLAS, a four-member R&B (Rhythm and Blues) and Jazz group, which was nationally acclaimed for its professional performances.
Michael placed first in the 16-19 Vocal Solo in the 1997 Trinidad and Tobago Music Festival and at the National Junior Arts Festival he won two more national titles - Best Vocal Soloist and Best Instrumental Soloist. He became Assistant Musical Director of the Presentation College Choirs and took the lead solo in the school's annual production - the Oratorio Holy Boy. He was presented with the School's award for Most Outstanding Choir Member.
As 'Freddy' he went on tour with the Naparima Girls' High School theatre company in their highly acclaimed 1998 production of 'My Fair Lady'. In the same year, at the National Junior Arts Festival he won the titles of Best Vocalist, Best Instrumentalist, and Best Accompanist in the festival.
In 1999, the year of Michael's A-Level exams, he entered the National Music Festival in twenty-one classes. He competed in both Junior classes (under 19 years old) and the Open classes for adults. He placed in the top three in all of the twenty-one classes, placing first regionally in eleven of them.
At the Championships he took the highly coveted titles of Best Male Aria, Outstanding Achievement and Most Outstanding Performer. The Michael Zephyrine - coordinated Renaissance Ensemble, which also included Michael as a performer, won Best Operatic Ensemble. It was for his outstanding versatility that Canadian adjudicator Clifford Rawlins described him as "a young prodigy oozing with talent".
Michael was eager to join The Lydian Singers for the Caribbean premiere of Puccini's Turandot, but rehearsals had started in the midst of his A-Level exams. In just one post-exam week Michael studied the work and the opening gala saw him performing on stage. This feat gained him the attention of the Lydian Singers' Musical Director, Ms. Pat Bishop TC, now his principal vocal coach.
Once again at National Junior Arts Festival, he was awarded his seventh national title - Most Outstanding Vocalist. The Committee of the Trinidad & Tobago Music Festival presented Michael with the Medal of Outstanding Achievement in the Arts and nominated him in the category of Cultural Icon in the National Awards Ceremony later that year.
Michael, now a soloist with the Lydian Singers, performed in the Brahms Requiem, Dubois' The Seven Last Words of Christ and Bach's Jesu Meine Freude. AS lone soloist, he accompanied Lydian Steel to Miami in 2001, to open the Tropical Baroque Festival to a tumultuous reception.
Meanwhile, in South Trinidad, he was the assistant chorale director of the Genesis Chorale and vocal arranger for numerous R&B/Jazz groups and bands and won the title - Best Keyboardist in the Anchorage National Pop Rock/Jazz Competition.
In 2001 he took the daring move to audition in New York for three of the most prestigious music conservatories in the Western Hemisphere - the Julliard School of Music, the Manhattan School of Music and the Mannes School of Music. Auditions are strictly limited and are granted only after a rigorous tape-screening process. Competing for a place in a class of only fifteen against thousands of the world's most gifted and accomplished young musicians, Michael was invited to join all three institutions.
He opted for the Manhattan School of Music and faced the formidable challenge of raising the $38,000 US dollars needed to pay for his first year of study. This was achieved through a series of fundraising recitals with The Lydians, including a Gala Recital organized by a group of prominent citizens 'Friends of Michael Zephyrine', and through generous donations of numerous benefactors.
As a student of the world-renowned tenor, Neil Rosenshein, Michael boasts a 3.9 GPA. When asked about his tremendous success Michael simply says with characteristic modesty "I know that I have been blessed with a gift but I also realize that to whom much is given, much is expected and so I expect a lot from myself." About future plans, Michael states, "One of my main goals is to use the entire instrument, that is, the body, for musical expression".
Michael is back home trying to raise funds to continue his studies abroad. Based on his overall performance and particularly on his performance at his year-end jury, The Manhattan School of Music has offered Michael an encouraging 20% tuition scholarship. This still leaves a massive shortfall of funds.
This evening The Lydian Singers and Lydian Steel resent 'Michael Zephyrine and Men Who Can Sing' for your enjoyment and to help Michael realize his goal.
We wish him God's richest blessings.