TWENTY-FIVE years ago, Christiana Balbosa started her vocal school.
Today, Chris Vocal and Music Academy International (CVMAI) provides training in voice, dance and music.
Balbosa, 48, is the managing director of the organisation and still lives in her hometown of Palo Seco with her family.
She is known by her stage name, Chris Balbosa, and has training locations in Port of Spain, San Fernando, Siparia, Vessigny and Point Fortin.
Balbosa will be releasing her second album in August. Her first, You Are Mine, was released in 2004. Balbosa wrote most of the songs for the album with the help of other songwriters from her choir.
In 1988, Balbosa founded the Chris Vocal Training School to help vocalists develop and improve their talent and learn new skills. She expanded by offering dance and guitar lessons and renamed her school.
The organisation is a Christian, non-profit organisation.
Balbosa said, "Some people wouldn't necessarily come to church, so our mandate is to go to the people and reach out to them and help spread the gospel through music. We do different genres of music to appeal to a wider group of people—youths, young adults and anyone from any walk of life. The ministry serves to break down barriers and walls between the various religious denominations. We come together as one voice, one vision, one aim and one God."
She gave some advice to upcoming artistes: "You need to spend a lot of time with your craft, your gift, your talent. Develop a lot of time to perfect your skill. Be persistent and don't give up, and have and set goals and dream big. Dream where you see yourself and go after it. You have mentors and people you look up to, but I encourage people to be themselves, discover who you are and bring that to the audience. That's what people connect to. They connect to your heart. I would like for upcoming artists to have a love for people. It's important to love people and be embracing because you never know where your talent might take you."
Balbosa said for gospel artistes, they need to constantly be praying "because it serves to strengthen them and cause them to be guided, to be directed".
A saying she always likes to share with everyone is, "Live your life so humble so that when you become great, you would be the last to know."
"As a woman, a mother and a wife, I found that life could sometimes bring all sorts of experiences your way, both good and bad. I've had ups and downs like most people would. For me, when you're feeling down and out, you sometimes feel like you want to give up. Even though that's when you're weakest, it's at that time when you're really strong.
"When you're not tested, you'll never know how strong you are. In times like that, I ask people to look around them, count their blessings and rejoice. Be thankful and be grateful. It makes the road of life a whole lot easier to travel," Balbosa said.
She thanked her husband, Clarence Balbosa, and her four sons Clayton, Carlon, Cameron and Christian for their support, adding, "Their encouragement allows me to pursue my passions, whether it's teaching, coaching, ministering or performing."
Balbosa is planning a reunion to celebrate the 25th anniversary, with a thanksgiving service and a concert for past students.
In April, she will have her annual gospel event at the National Academy for the Performing Arts (NAPA) South campus. And in December, she is planning to have a musical production.