Entertainment

Alpha spreads wings

BY RICHARD JOHNSON
Observer senior reporter
johnsonr@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, September 24, 2017

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For well over a century, Alpha Boys' School has cultivated a rich musical tradition boasting alumni, including members of The Skatalites, who have been integral to the development of Jamaica's cultural history.

Today the school, located on South Camp Road in Kingston, continues to be that incubator and cultural cradle for present and future generations.

In addition to its strong musical programmes, which expose young men to all aspects of musical performance, the school, now known as The Alpha Institute, is moving with the times and diversifying its offerings. Leading the charge in this new direction is the three-year music technology programme.

Music director at the institute, Andre Adman explained to Jamaica Observer that participants spend one year being introduced to the rudiments of music, including the exposure to an instrument, as well as music theory. However, there are four other major components to the course of study.

“A large part of the course has to do with front of house mixing. This is sound mixing for live events. We also have radio production introduction to Pro Tool for sound recordings, and a DJ course where participants learn to play music for live events.”

Adman noted that the course, which targets at-risk youth between the ages of 16-18, was developed based on the needs of the market and in a bid to make the graduates employable at the end of the programme.

“When people think of Alpha, they immediately think of us in a specific light, and we wanted to add other areas to that. Based on our Jamaican culture we find that participants are most enthusiastic about the DJ course, so we have found a way to blend the traditional with new and cutting edge ideas and programmes. Currently we have over 100 young men enrolled in the programmes,” Adman noted.

There are no immediate plants to introduce any more new programmes.

“Expansion is on the horizon... But we want to ensure that the programmes we have are working properly and yield the desired results. The truth is, courses and programmes have a life cycle, this one is relatively new so we just want to work it to the best possible outcome and then review. That is why we are using some of the best trainers for these courses. For example, in radio production the tutor is well known radio voice Rosamond Brown, while our Don McDowell is Pro Tools-certified. We have chosen to utilise industry personnel who can offer the best possible advice and guidance to the students,” said Adman.

The programme has already begun to reap success as ads currently in rotation on commercial radio were produced by students at Alpha Institute. In addition, the top student in the music technology programme, Najay Pearce, recently participated in a training and internship on San Andres island off the Colombian coast, which was sponsored by the British Council.

Donations and sponsorship have contributed to the success of the programme. Benefactors have included the Irie Foundation which donated US$50,000 to underwrite disc jockey gear and training, practice rooms, math and English instruction; The American Friends of Jamaica whose US$20,000 underwrote renovation of production; reggae artiste Sean Paul who donated $1.5M and is helping to develop the music programme through creative and capacity-building projects; and Rototom Sunsplash from Spain which has donated US$20,000 to create the Alpha Boys' School Radio studio.

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