Some of the most beautiful talents in people are hereditary. They become even more refined when sharpened on the iron of professional training, experience and exposure. There is a select few who have been able to harness all of these and Rohan Thomas is one of them.
Thomas is the audiovisual (AV) technician at the globally recognized Sandals South Coast in Westmoreland and the grandson of Franklyn Bell Sr. who was also an audio engineer for equally acclaimed music icons like, Bob Marley and Jimmy Cliff. His uncle, Franklyn Bell Jr. is also in the same line of work and like his dad, he too is working alongside reggae artistes. While audiovisual engineering is his profession, Thomas is adamant that it is also his talent; something that obviously runs in his family.
“All the men in my family are audiovisual engineers. Growing up, that was how my family earned and ate,” he said.
As the AV technician at Sandals South Coast, which caters to a wide variety of events ranging from meetings, conferences, socials and weddings, Thomas is responsible for light, video and sound. He is also tasked with ensuring that events and performances for the entertainment department are electrifying.
AV engineering may not be as prominent or as visible a talent as singing or dancing but for Thomas, it is just as valuable- especially today.
“AV technicians work behind the scenes to ensure performances are smooth and to ensure that both the performer and the audience get value for money. The entertainment department here at Sandals is fast paced and we always aim to deliver world-class productions with a Caribbean flair. So having an in depth knowledge of the job and the necessary skillsets, help to keep us plugged in to the ever changing demands of our guests,” shared Thomas.
Thomas is often consulted as an expert in audiovisual engineering. One cannot help but wonder if his longevity in the business has given him an edge.
He grew up in Cooreville Gardens, a community in St Andrew with his grandparents, aunt and uncle. He was the baby in the family who everyone wanted to take under their wings. However, he was just about three years old when his grandmother noticed that the only toys he found intriguing were mixer boards, two-way radios and microphones. With this in mind, she thought it prudent for them to harness his passion.
“My grandmother ensured that I went to the studios with my grandfather whenever I could from as far back as I can remember. Even though I was just a kid, papa carried me along and he would teach me a few things,” he explained.
As he grew, so too did his love for the business. By the time he became an adolescent, he informed his family that he wanted to pursue higher education in the field of music. The zealous young man set out on a journey, which saw him jetting off to the United States of America (USA) to live with his mother, where he enrolled in the University of Central Oklahoma.
“I did a Bachelors of Arts Degree in liberal studies with an emphasis on music. I was doing very well and getting gigs even as a student,” he shared. “I have worked as audio technician for lots of artistes, including reggae act, Anthony B. Whenever they had performances in the USA, I’d go on the tours as one of their technicians,” Thomas added.
Thomas lived and worked in the USA for just about nine years, honing his skills and family talent. However, he always knew that Jamaica was where he wanted to settle. His aunt’s leukemia diagnosis was the catalyst for his return.
“When I learned that my aunt, the woman who was a second mother to me had cancer, I immediately packed and headed home. I wanted to be there for her to care for her as she did for me,” a seemingly emotional Thomas recalled.
Unfortunately, his aunt lost her battle to cancer but Thomas decided to remain in Jamaica and build on the foundation that the men in his family had set.
“After my aunt passed, I wanted to start anew but to also continue in the footsteps of my relatives. I heard about an opportunity in the hospitality industry where Sandals was looking for an AV technician and I gave it a shot. Now, five years later, I can safely say that I have no regrets. I am pursuing my passion and growing daily,” shared Thomas.
He truly is growing. In addition to his international studies and training, working in the entertainment department at Sandals South Coast, he is one of nine individuals who recently completed a certificate programme in entertainment and logistics management, courtesy of the HEART Trust NTA and Sandals Corporate University (SCU).
“I have learned so much in this programme. I am now able to plan an event from scratch and work out the logistics for it. I came into the department with a wealth of knowledge in AV engineering but now I am equipped to do so much more,” he said.
Thomas is a platinum team member at the resort as he was a runner up for the team member of the year award and he is currently being coached to serve as an assistant manager in the entertainment department.
“I couldn’t ask for more. If my aunt were still alive, she would be very pleased to see that I followed through with my dreams and that what my grandfather imparted to me has helped to mold the man I am today. I strive to make her proud and to make my family know their efforts were not in vain,” he shared.
His manager, Garett Bailey describes him as being a highly resourceful individual.
“Rohan is well rounded and can do just about everything. He is a genius at anything that has to do with electrical installation. He is a leader and he commands the respect of everyone. I am currently coaching him to become a manager and I am confident that he will do well,” he said.
Though he is not in mainstream entertainment like his patriarch, he has no regrets venturing into a different sphere of the industry.
“Working in Sandals has broadened my capacity to understand entertainment and on a whole different level as there is far more diversity. Here, I am challenged to be consistent and on my A-game as the audience in the hospitality industry is closer to us than the mainstream entertainment audience.”