Sonesta Maho Group will launch its new entertainment concept in September. The person behind it all is Shep Shephard, Director of Entertainment for Maho Group. He tells us about himself and his plans for entertainment.
Who is Shep Shepherd?
“I’m a professional, creative, and working internationally within the Art and Entertainment industry with a broad experience in entertainment creation, theatrical production and special events. I’m a creative thinker, a passionate and extremely driven individual; I’m also a karma farmer. I strongly believe in doing what you can for who you can whenever you get the chance.”
Where are you from and how did you end up on the Friendly Island?
“I was born in the Potteries, the heart of England, in 1983 to fireman Malcolm and nurse Sandra. In March 2016, I was approached by the Maho Group to join the company and head up their entertainment operation. I moved to the Island in August and have been here since.”
“I studied performance at Bretton Hall College of Art in West Yorkshire before going on to complete a Master’s Degree at Kings School in London. I originally trained as an actor, but gradually broadened my interests to include the wider aspects of production. Whilst studying, I became known for staging unique events and live performance. Since then my work has taken me around the world, working in theatres, art centres, cruise ships and resort concepts.”
Tell us about your job at Sonesta Maho?
“I joined Sonesta Resorts St. Maarten in August 2016 to oversee the Entertainment Operation at that time. I was approached by the Vice President of Resort Operations… In November the owners invited me to design and deliver a brand-new entertainment concept for Maho Group, spanning Sonesta Resorts, The Maho Village and The Casino Royale Theatre.”
Tell us about your experience in this field?
“I was always an entertainer and loved centre stage… I’ve played for lots of large audiences over the years as a Cruise Director, Compere, Radio Host and interviewer. There’ve been many personal highlights, but professionally speaking, it would be interviewing World Champion Sports Stars and Academy Awards-winning artists… Working at Yorkshire Sculpture Park where I was exposed to many incredible international artists and influential mentors, shaped me as a creative thinker.”
Tell us about the new shows?
“We’re currently developing our brand-new shows for the big launch in September, and it’s really exciting. For the high season we will have three brand-new spectacular productions, featuring aerial artists, acrobats, world champion dancers and vocalists. There will be three shows weekly on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturday, all at 10:00pm in Casino Royale Theatre. Presently we have two temporary shows running, MJ The Experience on Wednesdays and Dances of The World on Fridays, right after the Maho Village Carnival. In addition to this, of course, we have performances across Great Bay, Ocean Point and Maho Beach Resorts… One thing that I’ve been very clear about in building the new content is that we want the shows to be as appealing and accessible to as wide an audience as possible. We’re investing huge amounts of time, money and effort to build shows that don’t just draw people to Maho Village, but to the Island of St. Maarten.”
What do you like about your job?
“I love the creative process. It’s exciting and stimulating and there’s never two days the same. As I get older I also really enjoy watching younger people develop as performers, it can be really rewarding to invest time and effort in people and see them grow.
Also, you get to meet so many interesting people I hear some really great stories.”
What’s your personal management style?
“My door is always open and I try and listen as much as I can. I’m very strict, but at the same time fair and work hard to highlight people’s strengths so as to empower them to grow. I’m very much “you get out what you put in.”
What differentiates you from other persons in a similar profession?
“From the start of my career it’s been very important to me to gain the broadest experience possible from the industry. I’ve developed a wealth of knowledge from hands on experience, some exceptional mentors and always pushing myself to keep learning.
Critically I’ve never been afraid of challenging the status quo, risking new ideas or taking chances. This is what being a true creative is about, not repeating old formulas. You can’t be afraid of failure either. The person who doesn’t make mistakes is unlikely to make anything at all”.
Challenges in the field?
“People who are afraid of change or who fail to see the bigger picture.”
Message for youngsters who want to follow in your professional path?
“Listen, learn and pick great mentors. My Dad always told me: “if you can’t learn from the person next to you it’s your fault not theirs.” I really believe in this sentiment and it’s always served me well. The more you practice the luckier you get so never give up. Be yourself, be bold, make lots of mistakes and learn from them - everyone is a lesson.”
What else are you involved in outside of work?
“There’s an outside of work - what is this place?
“Laziness and negativity, get on board or get outta the way. Life’s too short!”
Also people who say “we’ve always done it like this.”
Music… walking the dogs really relaxes me and playing with Lego too. I’m basically a massive child. I’m passionate about all visual arts so I love galleries, the theatre, cinema and festivals etc.”
What’s your favourite type of music – what artistes do you listen to?
“As I mentioned I really enjoy all genres of music but especially soul and motown, swing and great pop music… There’s always lots of Sinatra playing in my house.
If you could ask any three persons (dead or alive) to a dinner party who would they be and what would you cook for them?
“Frank Sinatra, he changed the face of popular music and politics for several generations and was an incredible story teller. Robin Williams, one of my all-time favourite comedic performers - he’s a million guests in one. And Barack Obama, I think he’s been one of the most inspirational leaders of modern times and we need him back. We’re going to order in Chinese so I can focus on pouring the drinks and picking the music.”