Teen group Preston Primos wins first Portia White Youth Award

A group of young musicians from the Preston area will be honoured at the African Nova Scotian Music Awards this month.

New prize honours legendary African Nova Scotian singer who became an international star

The Preston Primos is one of three satellite ensembles for the Los Primos Project, a cultural exchange between Cuban and Nova Scotian musicians. (LosPrimos.ca)

A group of young musicians from Nova Scotia's Preston communities will be honoured with a new award at the African Nova Scotian Music Awards this month.

The first-ever Portia White Youth Award will go to the Preston Primos — one of three satellite ensembles for the Los Primos Project, a cultural exchange between Cuban and Nova Scotian musicians started by Jeff Goodspeed, an instructor at the Nova Scotia Community College. 

Members of Preston Primos range in age from 13 to 18. 

Reeny Smith, assistant director of the Preston Primos, said winning the award named for Portia White is a "huge honour."

White, a contralto singer from Truro, performed internationally in the 1940s and 1950s. She died in 1968.

"I can't imagine how that time must have been for her, but because of her undeniable talent she was able to persevere and push through and become the legend that she is now," said Smith.

"That's very inspiring. She's the musical pioneer for black people in Nova Scotia."

African Nova Scotian Portia White is being celebrated in what would've been her 100th year. 2:12

Passing the torch

The producer of the awards said the Preston Primos represent "new hope" in the music community and the Portia White prize fits with the theme for this year's African Heritage Month, which is "Passing the Torch."

"I thought it was time to pay tribute to her and her legacy," said Juanita Peters. 

Smith said the group has had a positive effect on all the Preston communities.

"It's brought knowledge," she said.  

"They get a chance to learn how to read music, they have a chance to be introduced to instruments where they otherwise wouldn't have the chance."

The awards will be handed out Feb. 25 at the Spatz Theatre in Halifax's Citadel High School, which is opposite the Portia White Atrium. White will also be honoured posthumously with a lifetime achievement award.