The worldwide Augustana College experience

Jamaica Blog #2

We took the highway to Kingston and found it interesting that the Chinese built this highway. We wondered whether the tolls went to the Chinese or to Jamaica. Upon arriving at Kingston we were amused to see people holding up newspapers for sale that said, “Illegals Welcome.” As we drove up to the Knutsford Hotel, we immediately noticed that it was surrounded by barbed wire. It was our first indication that we were in an area that could be unsafe.

The next morning we were so excited to arrive at the Alpha Boys School. We entered the gates to the school and saw many buildings. We met Sparrow Martin who was a part time teacher and was very welcoming. I worked with the advanced boys on flute. They knew their scales, knew how to transpose, and could play major keys and their relative minor scales. We also met Mary, who was with the Peace Corps, and she gave us a tour. We saw the music studio and lab they were building. Mary was trying to help out the best she could and organize the music curriculum.

We began our instructional time there with individual lessons. I taught trombone and flute. It is half way through the year, and they couldn’t read notes on paper. By learning music notes they would be able to sit down and play anything, but not all of them had accomplished that. It was immediately apparent that everything here was very unorganized. Their teacher came by occasionally but was not there the entire time and perhaps was not totally dedicated to the program.

The boys came from a very depressed area and didn’t have the best life. One boy was told to go home to check on his family because there was a shooting in his neighborhood. Another boy said that he used to do ganja but doesn’t now because music is too important to him. He aspired to play in a band for his living. Many of these boys had such potential. They were very polite and eager to learn. On Jamaica Day we played “Stir It Up” to the primary students, and they really seemed to enjoy it. Unfortunately, many of the music books were at the middle school level and were very elementary. The condition of this school was perhaps acceptable for Jamaica but not for us. They just need an administration that is dedicated and supportive of the program to make the necessary upgrades and improvements. Then these boys would thrive.

One day I worked with the advanced students, and we played an arrangement with parts for the tenor sax, flute, trumpet, trombone, alto sax, clarinets, and xylophone. They loved it because usually they just did things by rote. That day I had a feeling that they actually had a glimpse of their potential. I wish we could have stayed longer because they wanted to learn but their needs were not being met. It was sad to leave but I am so grateful for the experience and will treasure the memory of them.

While in Kingston, we visited Trenchtown, which is where Bob Marley grew up. It was the most economically depressed place we saw, but the spirit of the people there shined through. After that we went to 56 Hope Road where Bob Marley lived his adult life. We met Julian, his son, and took a group photo. We had a really cool tour of his home and then were told of a party which we attended. We listened to all kinds of music there. One evening we went to Usain Bolt’s “Tracks and Records.” It was a cool place with lots of his memorabilia on the walls including his metallic shoes. The spicy shrimp burger was excellent. We also went to church to see the boys play their instruments. It was very hot but I hope the boys and Sparrow Martin were glad to see us there. After church we took a small speedboat to Lime Cay, and that was a very exciting ride. While on the island, we tried our best not to step on sea urchins, and snorkeling was very hard, but I did see a starfish which was the highlight of my day. The sky was blue, the breeze was refreshing, and it was a relaxing and enjoyable afternoon.

Leave a Reply