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Sandals Foundation, Alpha reigniting legacy of brass music education Loop Jamaica

As the country marks its 60thAnniversary of Independence, Sandals Foundation has drums up its support to help keep an authentic Jamaican sound alive by strengthening and enriching brass music education on the island in partnership with the Alpha School of Music.

The school is one of the most influential music education institutions in Jamaica.

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

Patrice Gilpin, Public Relations Manager at Sandals Foundation, expressed the importance of the philanthropic arm of Sandals Resorts International supporting music education in Jamaica.

“Music is a major part of who we are as Jamaicans. Our undeniable rhythms have transcended geographical boundaries and language barriers, raising global consciousness, leading movements, and inspiring generations.

“As an organisation proudly born in Jamaica,” Gilpin continued, “we are passionate about preserving the unique elements of our culture. Building the capacity of music educators to train the next generation of entertainers in this masterful craft will be key to keeping our unique touch to our musical art even as it evolves to modern day sounds.”

Wind and brass instruments are synonymous with the origins of Jamaican popular music, particularly Ska. However, during the 1970s and 1980s, many wind and brass players migrated from Jamaica, resulting in a brain drain of players and instructors. Many of those brass musicians were past students of Alpha Boys’ School, the music legacy of which is now being preserved and developed by Alpha School of Music.

Gay Magnus, Bandmaster at Alpha School of Music says brass training will be critical in the continued development of brand Jamaica.

“Music education in Jamaica needs quality, consistent support,” said Magnus, “especially brass which is so important to ska, as well as jazz and reggae. Jamaican brass musicians, including musicians trained at Alpha, have been recognised as among the best in the world, and brought a lot of attention to our music and our island. Quality and consistent music education will have a similar impact which will benefit today’s upcoming brass players, our music, our economy and our country,” said Magnus.

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

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

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The workshops are to see attendees each receiving an instrument for use during the training, and be awarded with a certificate upon completion.

The sessions in Montego Bay are to be directed 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 serves as director of the internationally acclaimed UT Trombone Choir, and was the recipient of the 2019 International Trombone Association’s (ITA) Humfeld Teaching Excellence Award.

Dr Sulliman teaches applied trombone, class brass and coaches various chamber brass ensembles at Troy, and currently serves as the trombone tutor for the North American Brass Band Summer School as part of the Royal Nova Scotia International Tatoo in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

The brass training workshops form part of Sandals Foundation’s 40for40 sustainable development projects seeking to preserve the region’s cultural heritage and further develop its iconic sounds. The initiative is made possible with the support of the American Friends of Jamaica, Sandals Resorts International and Serve 360/AC Marriott, which have provided funding for the tutors, instrument rental, materials, accommodation, flights and meals.