Sandals Foundation, Alpha Rekindles Legacy of Brass Music Education

As the country celebrates its 60th anniversary of independence, the Sandals Foundation has mobilized its support to help maintain an authentic Jamaican sound by strengthening and enriching brass music education on the island in partnership with the Alpha School of Music.

The school is one of Jamaica’s most influential music education institutions.

Through two four-day workshops to be held August 9-12 at Sam Sharpe Teachers’ College in Montego Bay, St James and August 16-19 at the Alpha School of Music in Kingston, the organizations aim to build capacity of 20 teaching musicians, including private music tutors and high school and college level instructors, to provide the best practices in teaching brass music to young trumpet and trombone players across the island.

Patrice Gilpin, public relations manager at the Sandals Foundation, highlighted the importance of the philanthropic arm of Sandals Resorts International supporting music education in Jamaica.

Music is an important part of who we are as Jamaicans. Our undeniable beats have transcended geographic borders and language barriers, raising global consciousness, leading movements and inspiring generations.

“As an organization proudly born in Jamaica,” continued Gilpin, “we are passionate about preserving the unique elements of our culture. Building the capacity of music teachers to train the next generation of artists in this masterful craft will be essential to maintain our unique touch to our musical art, even if it evolves towards modern sounds.

Wind and brass instruments are synonymous with the origins of Jamaican popular music, especially ska. However, during the 1970s and 1980s, many wind and brass players emigrated from Jamaica, resulting in a brain drain of players and instructors. Many of these brass musicians were former students of the Alpha Boys’ School, whose musical legacy is now preserved and developed by the Alpha School of Music.

Gay Magnus, conductor at the Alpha School of Music, says brass training will be key to the continued development of the Jamaica brand.

Music education in Jamaica needs consistent, quality support,” Magnus said, “especially brass instruments that are so important to ska, as well as jazz and reggae. Jamaican brass instruments, including the musicians trained at Alpha, have been recognized as some of the best in the world and have brought much attention to our music and our island. A quality and consistent musical education will have a similar impact that will benefit today’s future brass , to our music, our economy and our country,” Magnus said.

Now, with the potential to expand the caliber of brass music educators across the country, Magnus expressed excitement about the impact these workshops could have on preserving this aspect of Jamaican music.

“Alpha School of Music is committed to developing music education across the island. Thanks to the Sandals Foundation and our community partners, these workshops will provide music teachers with specialized brass pedagogy, especially for trumpet and trombone, that may not have been available during their teacher training. Participants will also benefit from these teaching practices and the development of fundamental brass techniques,” added Magnus.

Workshops should see participants each receive an instrument to use during the training and receive a certificate upon completion.

Sessions in Montego Bay will be led by Dr. Nathaniel Brickens, professor of music at the University of Texas, and in Kingston by Dr. Jason Sulliman, assistant professor of trombone at Troy University based in Alabama, USA.

Dr. Brickens is director of the internationally acclaimed UT Trombone Choir and received the 2019 International Trombone Association (ITA) Humfeld Teaching Excellence Award.

Dr. Sulliman teaches applied trombone, class brass and coaches various chamber brass ensembles in Troy.

The brass training workshops are part of the Sandals Foundation’s 40for40 sustainability projects aimed at preserving the region’s cultural heritage and further developing its iconic sounds. The initiative is made possible through the support of American Friends of Jamaica, Sandals Resorts International and Serve 360/AC Marriott, which provided funding for tutors, instrument rentals, equipment, accommodations, flights and meals.

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