Sunday, 9 June 2013

A MUSICAL LEGACY: At 75, Noel Dexter's humility and hard work continue to inspire

IN SIGHT: "I hope to publish more of the works I've already done."

"I just like to see music coming out of people," confesses enduring musicologist Noel Dexter, chatting with TALLAWAH on a warm Saturday night outside Mona's Philip Sherlock Centre. "Especially the young ones," he adds. "And I always try to encourage it." 

Dexter's sentiments could hardly be timelier, given the fabulous and refreshing 55th concert season of the University Singers (on through June 24), which boasts a host of fresh, young faces. "We try to replenish our stock each year, and this year we've taken in quite a number of new people," the artistic director explains, "and some who have served us for a long time have sort of stepped aside." 

The university, which Dexter has been humbly serving for decades, feels the time has come to bestow on him (alongside other Caribbean stalwarts like Valerie Facey and R. Danny Williams) one of its most prestigious honours, a Doctor of Laws degree, which he will officially receive in November. 

TALLAWAH: Mr. Dexter, how do you feel about your life at this point, at age 75? 
Dexter: I am thankful. I am grateful to God for guidance, and to those who have helped me along the way. I pretty much look forward to doing more. 

And the honorary doctorate from the university. Much-deserved, to say the least. 
I'm grateful for it but, on the other hand, I'm thinking it comes as a result of doing my work. And I think I've done my work well... 
...most notably with the University Singers, who continue to evolve so beautifully. 
The University Singers has always made its mark, always aiming for excellence. And sometimes we think that we've done well [but] we always stretch ourselves. We always try to do better because we take to heart Professor Nettleford's words, 'You're always as good as your last performance', and that guides us. 

Are you concerned about the state of the arts in local schools? 
I am thinking that there should be more of the arts in education. I don't think we've really been focusing on that because what you see being done in schools [with the arts] is extra-curricular activity. The arts aren't put central in student education. 

What's next for you? 
I'm still working on my book of Jamaican Christmas music. I've gone a good way with it, and I'm hoping that by December I'll get this one out. And I hope to publish more of the works I've already done.

>> Review: University Singers deliver a musical feast

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