Theron Michael Shaw
Guitarist, composer, arranger, artist and budding photographer, Theron Michael Shaw began his foray into the world of music as a young boy with a four-stringed plastic guitar bought by his mother and tuned by his cousin.
Music had such a firm hold on him that it became his centre. All through St James Secondary School, with no formal music lessons, he was known for his guitar playing. In fact, he and a group of friends (Anthony Greer, Russell Durity, and Ryan Romany) often got together and their impromptu sessions would have the entire school thronging to hear “Shaw and dem playing.”
Theron’s fascination with and interest in the guitar coupled with his methodical nature led to his diligent application to learning music formally. He bought music books and - devising his own formula for reading key signatures - he practised, he wrote and passed music exams, and, when needed he sought help from elders like Frankie Francis, Michael ‘Toby’ Tobas and Clive Alexander.
As a guitarist, composer, arranger and educator, Theron ‘Terry’ Shaw consistently sets and accomplishes his goals and objectives through persistence and dedication.
Refuting limitations of location or resources, Theron optimistically considers himself an out of-the-box thinker in his quest to create different ways to express his Caribbean African ancestry.
His music is decidedly Caribbean in the way it registers “at home” while also evoking ancestral cultures. He infuses familiar rhythms with unexpected beats and melodies that tell the story of a musician who has walked through the grand bazaar of world music, absorbing flavours to bring them home to add to a bubbling pot.
From a self-taught boy playing a four-string plastic guitar, Theron Michael Shaw has truly graduated. He completed his formal music education at Howard University with a Bachelor’s Degree (cum laude) in Music Therapy.
It may be posited that Shaw’s introspective nature drew him to study the way music can affect moods. Perhaps the courses he chose made him more attuned to the relationship between man and melody. In any case, when he returned home to Trinidad, he pursued a Post Graduate Diploma in Education at the University of the West Indies, and now works with young minds through the medium of music.
Upon his return to Trinidad following university, Theron wanted a career with music at its core. He had already done some music therapy with the Autistic Society, and was distressed by the dearth of support and resources to the organisation. He eventually began teaching music at San Juan North Secondary School, and also enjoyed stints at COSTAAT and UTT.
As an educator teaching music in the secondary school system, Theron remains undaunted by the limited number of CSEC Music passes yet is confident that his role as a positive male figure adds some value to the lives of pupils under his tutelage.
In fulfilment of his role as external tutor (Guitar) during his tenure at the University of Trinidad and Tobago (UTT), Theron successfully supervised the development and matriculation of students in the graduating year 2014, and went on to successfully prepare another group of students who graduated in 2017.
Between gigs, work and raising a family, all the dreams Theron harboured about producing his own work seemed distant – something for later on. The death of his younger sister Lisa from cancer in 2000 served as a stark reminder of the ephemeral nature of life and also as a catalyst for the production of his debut collection. In 2003, he recorded and produced The Sojourn which was well received and rated by critics.
The success of this recording, as well as the experience he had acquired from performing around the world with internationally acclaimed acts helped to focus his mind on subsequent projects.
Over the years, Theron has toured and performed with a wide variety of acts including The Roaring Lion, Lord Pretender, and played all around the Caribbean as a member of the Kaiso Jazz Workshop with Michael Tobas. His recording credits include French vocalist Philippe Lavil, pannist Liam Teague, Andre Tanker, Elan Parle and bassist Ron Reid. He accompanied the Mighty Sparrow, Cuban pianist Ernán López-Nussa and the multi-faceted Bobby Carcasses, Jeff Haynes, Tony Mason, Anise Hadeed, Arturo Tappin, David Rudder, Andy Narell, Ella Andall, Andre Tanker, Len Boogsie Sharpe, Mavis John, The Noble Douglas Dance Company, Vaughnette Bigford and the Trinidad Theatre Workshop.
Shaw is a well-known feature on the jazz circuit at home and abroad having appeared at Pan Ramajay, Caribbean Jazz Waves, We Beat Festival, Jazz on the Hill, Jazz Artists on the Greens and the Tobago Jazz Experience.
Arriving at a more solid place with his music by juxtaposing and developing a distinctly Caribbean aesthetic with jazz improvisation, Shaw also adopted the philosophy of making the most of the moment. This led him to his second recording project Right Here, Right Now, released in 2008, the first release from the then newly formed Foreday Mornin’ Entertainment Company.
Foreday Mornin’s intent is to establish itself as a home for much of the region’s musical and lyrical masterpieces that have either faded from consciousness or have never reached the markets they deserve. Whether new or old, the idea is to expose works in a way that would reflect and reinforce the full depth of their meaning, past and present. Foreday Mornin’ seeks to provide a home for these artistes in a range of genres to issue their works fully loaded with all their historical, musical and lyrical intensity.
On his 2014 release Gumbo Caribe, Shaw deliberately decided upon a more acoustic approach to his music, and recorded this project in Boston. Utilising the services of Caribbean and North American musicians co-ordinated by his long time collaborator Ron Reid, Shaw asserted that “Gumbo Caribe represents a mix of styles and influences that “I've been nurturing developing for a number of years. You will hear influences from the French Caribbean via the mennde and mazurka [mazouk], a Brazilian textured partido alto, and of course my own twists of calypso and folk rhythms." While some compositions adopt a feel of the French Caribbean, Theron also secured the services of calypsonian Bro Valentino on a duet version of Andre Tanker’s Smokey Joe, an arrangement that is close to his core, having worked with Andre Tanker until his sudden passing in 2003.
As Shaw’s relationship with music was preceded by his love for art, he continues to work using various media – acrylics, watercolours, pastels – and has exhibited with the Art Society of Trinidad and Tobago as recent as 2018. Theron is also an avid photographer who prefers to capture nature in its most natural and beautiful forms.
Deep thinker, guitarist, teacher, artist and photographer. These are some of the labels worn by Theron who is a gentle and kind human being, optimistic about making a positive difference in this world - even if it is one note at a time.