Alpha Boys School

Alpha Boys School

The Alpha Boys School is without a doubt a major contributing force to the foundation of the music from Jamaica as a whole let alone Ska specifically. The backbone of the Skatalites is pretty much all alumni including Tommy McCook, Johnny “Dizzy” Moore, Lester Sterling and Don Drummond. Other famous musicians to be taught at the school include a who’s who of Jamaican royalty including Cedric “Im” Brooks, Theo Beckford, Rico Rodriguez, Yellowman, Vin Gordon, Harold McNair, “Deadly” Headley Bennett, Johnny Osbourne, Floyd Lloyd, “Jo Jo” Bennett, Leroy “Horsemouth” Wallace (who talked about his love for Lloyd Knibb of the Skatalites here), Bobby Ellis, Eddie “Tan Tan” Thornton and many others.

The school (established in 1880 as a “school for wayward boys”) became one of the core institutions for teaching music on the island and thanks to the endless work of all the nuns that called it home it has stayed that way ever since. One such nun, Sister Mary Ignatius Davies, became the mentor and spiritual guide for the music program and thus was instrumental in ushering in the golden age of Ska & Reggae development until the day she died.

A big part of what the Echoes of Kingston tour was established for was to further the development of Ska, Rocksteady & Reggae music here in America and at the same time paying tribute to the legends, institutions and artists that have inspired us on our musical journey. We feel strongly that trying to inspire a whole new generation of young artists to take up their instruments to play the music of Jamaica in a way that just might make someone like Derrick Morgan, Prince Buster or The Skatalites just a little proud would be one of the greatest things in the world.

Alpha Boys School has been doing that for close to a hundred years! So supporting this great institution in any way we can, paying tribute to the artists that have come through the walls of the school and giving back even just a little bit of the joy they have given us is essential to the tour itself.

Alpha Boys School ProjectThe Alpha Boys School Project beat us to the table with an idea that is a perfect and fitting tribute. They have been collecting donations of unused musical instruments to ship to the school music program for students that do not have one themselves! Each instrument is inspected, cleaned and repaired to as like new as possible and they are working on plans to take them to Jamaica themselves. There are also plans to bring musicians to the school as guest teachers including King Django of Stubborn Records/ Version City fame who plans to teach Trombone sometime soon. This is such an amazing idea we can’t help but join in!

We’re very proud to partner with Victoria Ska Fest and the Alpha Boys School Project to extend their campaign to collect donations and instruments for the school at each stop of the tour. Anyone attending a show on the tour (check the tour page) can bring in any instrument on our list (and some not on the list) in exchange for a CD. They are also taking money and other useful items as well. Contact Jason Lawless (skatalites@echoesofkingston.com) to arrange dropoff at the stop in your city.

The project is the brain child of Byron Maier, President of the Victoria BC Ska Society, who wanted to find a way to give back to the roots of where the music came from and to reach out to young kids in a positive way. The society, which has been instrumental in keeping Ska alive in Victoria and surrounding Canadian territories for over a decade, organizes the yearly Victoria Ska Fest. The festival and year-long events leading to the big show have become one of North America‚Äôs largest and pretty much only festival purely dedicated to Ska in it’s various forms.

Here is a news story about the project.

Instruments Being Requested:
2 French Horns
2 Baritone
1 Upright base
1 Xylophone
1 Vibraphone
Flutes
Saxaphones
Clarinets
plus any other brass or wood wind instrument.

Follow updates on the project at their Facebook page.

More information on the Alpha Boys School itself can be found on the Alpha Old Boys Association website (Sister Ignatius used to call here students her “Old Boys” or at the Alpha Boys School website.

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