June 6, 2003 – If there's anything Virgin Islander Aquannette Chinnery hasn't succeeded at, it's probably because she hasn't tried it yet.
One of the St. Thomas attorney's fairly recent forays is into the realm of gospel music singing and songwriting. And on Saturday night, her debut solo album, "Who Is Like Unto You?", and one of its songs, "Sweet," are up for awards at the 3rd annual Hopeton Lewis Caribbean Gospel Music Awards in New York City.
The album, released last December in both CD and cassette formats, has been nominated in the Top Gospel CD International category, and "Sweet" is vying for Top International Gospel Song of the Year.
Chinnery was scheduled to appear as a guest artist at the awards show, at the JFK Ramada Plaza Hotel, before she received word that she is a contender. One role didn't cancel out the other; she'll still be among those performing.
"I was so blessed to receive these nominations and am honored," she said, "particularly because other nominees in the same categories as my nominations include well-known artists such as the Grace Thrillers, George Banton, Judy Mowatt (formerly of the I Threes, which was Bob Marley's backup group), Richie Stephens and others."
In taking up music professionally, Chinnery is coming full circle from a variety of pursuits in which she has made her mark. As a youngster, she saved her summer job earnings to buy a piano and then taught herself to play it. She started singing in college — and that was in her mid-teens — and also took up dance and modeling.
She received her bachelor's degree in chemistry from the then-College of the Virgin Islands at the age of 18 — CVI's youngest-ever graduate. Then she went on to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where she earned her master's degree in biochemistry.
Returning home to St. Thomas, she became a familiar face as an anchor on the old Channel 10 evening news and a familiar voice hosting talk and jazz shows on WVWI Radio. She became assistant director of public relations for Gov. Alexander A. Farrelly and the territory's first "Mrs. Virgin Islands" beauty pageant winner. And then, as a single mother of two young sons, she headed off to the Rutgers University School of Law, where she earned her J.D. degree with high honors. After clerking on St. Croix for District Judge Raymond Finch, she opened her own practice on St. Thomas.
In the midst of her musical activities she also is keeping her day job as Aquannette Y. Chinnery, PC, Attorney at Law. And she continues to pursue her avocation as an award-winning fine artist — she was one of 20 chosen to represent the territory in the VIA Colectiva exhibition at the Museo de las Americas in Puerto Rico's historic Old San Juan district from last November to January.
Chinnery describes herself as a born-again Christian and says the focus of her ministry is to "spread the gospel across the world in song, particularly to Caribbean people and the lovers of Caribbean gospel music genres." She is a member of Wesley Methodist Church on St. Thomas and a vocalist with the Tidalwave Gospel Band.
"Who Is Like Unto You?" features contemporary, traditional, reggae and soca/calypso gospel songs. Chinnery co-wrote most of them with Loris Holland, who co-produced the album with Mel Holder.
Holland has worked as a producer for such artists as Deniece Williams, Vickie Winans, Tramaine Hawkins and Bam Crawford's Purpose. An accomplished keyboardist and arranger as well, he also has collaborated on projects with a long list of top artists including Lauryn Hill, Mary J. Blige, Whitney Houston, Celine Dion and Santana.
Holder, who also is a saxophonist, has released several of his own albums and can be heard on those of numerous other artists.
Chinnery's CD, released in December, has gotten ample airplay in the Virgin Islands, other Caribbean islands, the U.S. mainland and Canada. This year, Chinnery has performed in Sint Maarten and on Virgin Gorda, as well as at gospel concerts and programs throughout the Virgin Islands.
For more information, check out her Aquannette Web site.
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