Friday 20 September, 2019

Trini-born pannist receives honourary doctorate in US

Cliff Alexis (Left)

Cliff Alexis (Left)

One remarkable Trinidadian-born musician has been awarded an honorary doctorate from a University in the United States of America.

Cliff Alexis moved from Trinidad and Tobago to America in 1965 with $5 in his pocket and his love of the national instrument of his home country.

20 years after his arrival in the US, he would join the music staff of Northern Illinois University (NIU).

The 80-year-old retired last year from his role as co-director of the NIU Steelband but still continues to compose and arrange its music.

On Friday, Alexis received an honorary doctoral degree during the NIU Graduate School commencement ceremony.

According to MidWeek, Yuko Asada, NIU Steelband’s new co-director, said that Alexis’ honorary doctorate is a way to recognise him for his years of work and dedication at NIU.

“The NIU Steelband would not be what it is today without Cliff,” Asada told MidWeek. “Many colleges and universities have steelbands, but NIU was the first to offer a BA and MA in steelband performance. So many students have been able to come to perform, play and learn. He has educated students from all over the world, and has given them the opportunity to be the next leaders.”

Speaking to MidWeek reporter Katrina Milton, Alexis said what the honorary degree meant to him.

“In Trinidad, I completed high school only. I will be receiving an honorary doctoral degree in Human Letters. It’s unbelievable, incredible to say the least. I can’t thank NIU enough. I want to also thank all of the steelband players in the world, especially those in Trinidad. The present head of steelband studies, Professor Liam Teague, is also from Trinidad. He’s my best friend, and I would also like to thank him.”

Read the entire inspiring interview with Alexis here.

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