Join the conversation:

Jamaica School Serves As Cradle For Island's Music

Jamaica School Serves As Cradle For Island's Music

Posted by Shanelle Weir on February 24, 2014

Barefoot and dressed in donated clothes, 12-year-old Renaldo Brown methodically plays scales on a flute under the canopy of trees at a Jamaican vocational school renowned for nurturing many of this music-steeped island's top instrumentalists.

"It's challenging but I like it. I'm getting better 'cause I've been practicing nearly every day for two years," said the serious boy from the gritty Jamaican city of Spanish Town, tapping the keys on the silver-colored wind instrument as he spoke.

Renaldo is among two dozen boys from impoverished backgrounds who are discovering a new world through music after being placed by family courts at Alpha Boys' School. Some of the boys are orphans, while others are placed at the home because of neglect, abuse or because their parents can't control them.

A residential facility operated by Catholic nuns since the late 19th century, the school has long been the cradle of Jamaica's prolific music culture — and a beacon of hope for at-risk youngsters. Decade after decade, Alpha alumni have emerged from the musical hothouse in Kingston to bring the sounds of Jamaican ska, rocksteady and reggae to the world.

But despite its outsized role in developing Jamaica's world-famous music, the school is increasingly squeezed between rising costs and shrinking state support, barely scraping by on the $60 weekly the government provides per student. The budget crunch has gotten so bad administrators say they will be forced to eliminate the program's residential side later this year.

In response, the school is building up its own revenue-generating businesses, including a recently launched "Alpha Wear" clothing line and an Internet radio station that draws 60,000 people monthly by broadcasting tunes featuring alumni. School director Sister Susan Fraser said the online radio program isn't bringing in revenue yet, but is expected to eventually raise money through sponsorship and advertising later his year.

Fraser, a member of the Sisters of Mercy religious order, said Alpha also plans to expand and modernize its training for young students to ensure the famed music program survives.

Link To Full Article: 

Facebook comments



Monthly newsletter featuring articles hand picked by our country managers from the best content across PanamericanWorld.



Monthly newsletter featuring articles hand picked by our country managers from the best content across the Caribbean Region on PanamericanWorld.