EWAN Simpson, musical director of the National Dance Theatre Company (NDTC), agrees that he has big shoes to fill as he takes over the position previously held by Marjorie Whylie.
However, the Glenmuir High School alumnus and practising attorney sees this new assignment as "a good challenge".
"It is not as scary as it could be," he tells the Sunday Observer. "Having been with the company for 15 years, I have had a lot of time to observe, learn and have my own perspective," he adds.
Simpson explains that he has years of experience working with Whylie, who helmed the musical side of Jamaica's premier dance company for almost half-a-century.
She taught him to play the congas, instructed him when she was director of music at the University of the West Indies, and worked alongside him in her jazz outfit Whylie Rhythms.
"We both have a common understanding of the music so that will allow me to stuff these big shoes and wear them well," says Simpson.
However, while he reveres Whylie and the solid foundation she laid, Simpson hopes to bring his own signature to the NDTC.
"I bring another angle to the company. While Marjorie's work with traditional and classical music is renowned, she was not big on popular music. I believe my strength lies in bringing a different approach, melding my background in classical music at Glenmuir, the mastery of choral music from Noel Dexter with the University Singers and my own training and love for Jamaican gospel and popular music."
The thought of change within the NDTC may rattle the nerves of some purists, but Simpson is not daunted, assuring that the integrity of the company's mission statement -- to unearth and expose a strong Jamaican and Caribbean aesthetic -- will be maintained.
"I'm sure part of the reason I was chosen was the fact that I could display an understanding of the work of the company. But what I will be seeking to do is to distil the strongest aspects of the past 50 years of the NDTC and build on it by using new influences."
Simpson's new style was put to the test this past Easter during the annual morning of movement and music. His arrangements received rave reviews, which he takes in stride.
He credits his grandfather, Samuel Simpson, for his early exposure to music. Although the elder Simpson was not a musician, he would sing and beat a rhythm with anything he had in his hand, even a cutlass.
His influences were formalised once he became a member of the University Singers under the direction of Dexter.
In the world of pop music, Simpson favours Stevie Wonder and Joseph Hill of Culture.