FRONT & CENTRE: Steele accepts the first-place trophy from Culture minister Olivia 'Babsy' Grange at Sunday's grand finale.
SHAUGHNA-LEE Steele didn’t set out to win the National Gospel Song Competition. But as with many of her previous accomplishments, things just fell into place. “This competition was not part of my agenda. I wrote the song like two days before the audition. It wasn’t planned,” she confessed to TALLAWAH inside the National Arena on Sunday night, where the curtains came down on the 30th anniversary staging of the competition. “So I’m not sure how this happened, but I’m extremely grateful.
Knox Junior School educator Dannareo Fearon took second place, while Westmoreland native Dycinta Nunes-Holgate (aka Sister Althea) came third.
The 22-year-old Lee, who hails from Buff Bay in Portland, copped sectional awards for Best Musicianship and Best Performance, in addition to the first-place trophy that came with a $500,000 cash award and other attractive prizes. At present, Steele is pursuing an MPhil in Geography at UWI’s Mona Campus, having completed undergrad studies in the same area.
An alumna of Titchfield High, she is an active member of the Bybrook Gospel Light Apostolic Temple who has displayed her enormous singing talent via the JCDC National Festival of the Performing Arts, the Big Stage competition and the Children’s Gospel Song competition, taking home several medals and trophies. Sunday’s triumph is her biggest achievement to date.
Lee’s winning entry “Arise Mighty Warrior” is a fierce battle cry appealing to Jamaicans of all walks to fight the good fight. As for future career ambitions, Lee is taking the wait-and-see approach for now. She explains, “I don’t plan most of the time. I like to let the Lord lead me because entering this competition wasn’t planned. So I’ll just wait and see what happens. But I want to pursue gospel music in addition to my studies.”
What are her thoughts on the current state of Jamaican gospel? “I think it’s growing,” she offers, without missing a beat. “We see people like Kevin Downswell who are bringing it to places, and I hope I will one day be a part of it.”
> Award Worthy: 2017 Sectional Prize Winners
Best Performance: Shaughna-Lee Steele, “Arise Mighty Warrior”
Best Musicianship: Shaughna-Lee Steele, “Arise Mighty Warrior”
Best Lyrics: Sister Althea, “Bawl Out”
Social Media Award: Dannareo Fearon, “Order My Steps”
Spirit of Praise Award: Derona Nunes, “God Is Real”
Best Arrangement: Flavia Bradshaw-Beswick, “Centre of My Life”