Students who attend the Alpha Institute’s (formerly, the Alpha Boys’ School) School of Music will be welcomed by two new band rooms when the new academic year begins in September.
Corporate donors contributed the majority of the funding to renovate a section of the school to accommodate the state-of-the-art band rooms and other spaces, while Culture, Health, Arts, Sports, and Education (CHASE) Fund provided funding of $3.36 million for furniture and equipment.
Speaking with JIS News, Development Officer, Alpha School of Music, Charles Arumaiselvam, says that following the success of the music education programme at the Institute, which was started in 2014, the organisation decided to formalise a school of education in music in 2019.
“The programme was becoming a success, as the boys were trained in the musical instruments and in recording music for radio advertisements, editing, and they were able to acquire jobs in the field. We realised that we should move the programme into a school for education in music, so we converted a boys’ dormitory into a music school then corporate donors, including the CHASE Fund, came to support, making the Alpha School of Music a reality,” he explains.
The Associate Degree in Music Performance at the Alpha School of Music is a four-year programme developed to train musicians for the commercial music and entertainment industry. It is the only Jamaican tertiary programme of its kind with its focus on ensemble performance. A diverse cross-section of musical styles is offered at the Alpha School of Music, allowing students to explore genres such as ska and reggae, pop, jazz, folk and world music.
In the last financial year (2020/2021), the CHASE Fund has invested $13.5 million in its Music in Schools and Community initiative, which benefited approximately 300 students in 35 primary and high schools through the acquisition of musical instruments and equipment.
The financial support from the CHASE Fund was used for the purchase of 12 computers and four 55-inch smart televisions, cubicles for the students, chairs, desks, cabinets and a printer, to bolster resources for the newly renovated spaces.
According to Mr. Arumaiselvam, the computers purchased will be multifunctional.
“These computers will teach them how to edit their music or do a radio advertisement or do a song, as we will have the software to facilitate that kind of education. A lot of the students that come to us aren’t necessarily computer proficient in a lot of the software programmes, so it will be used also to train them in the basic computer skills as well,” he shares with JIS News.
He also adds that the smart televisions will enable the School of Music to be more flexible, as with Internet connectivity they will be better enabled to deliver the programme to students.
The Development Officer tells the JIS News that the support from the CHASE Fund enables the Alpha Institute to achieve its goals of reducing poverty and unemployment locally.
“A part of CHASE’s mandate is to educate children who are vulnerable in Jamaica, and that is also our focus as the Alpha Boy’s School is for boys who are not able to complete high school successfully. So we take those students and train them in music as well other trades such as carpentry, so that they can be qualified and skilled to find a job and earn a living.” he says.
Also speaking with the JIS News, Chief Executive Officer, CHASE Fund, Billy Heaven, says that the CHASE Fund was pleased to be able to contribute to the Alpha School of Music, as its impact on youth is indelible.
“The band at the Alpha Boys Home & School has a tradition of excellence, given the many nationally acclaimed musicians and singers who have emerged from that institution. Among them Don Drummond, Tommy McCook, Lester Sterling, Tony Gregory and Cedric “Im” Brooks, in keeping with its objective of developing talents and skills through arts and culture,” he adds.
Alpha Institute, which is located in Kingston is owned and operated by the Sisters of Mercy of Jamaica and is a registered educational institution under the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information.
Alpha’s music programme has been preparing students for the commercial music and entertainment industry for over 100 years.