Illinois, USA - NIU’s Cliff Alexis is retiring, and he’s going out on a high note.
The longtime co-director of the world-renowned NIU Steelband – and master of the art of building steel drums – will be feted during a concert in his honor beginning at 3 p.m. Sunday, April 30, in the Boutell Memorial Concert Hall. The event is free and open to the public.
Additionally, Alexis will be presented with an honorary doctoral degree during the NIU Graduate School commencement ceremony at 6:30 p.m. Friday, May 12, at the NIU Convocation Center.
Friends and dignitaries from around the world will be in attendance for the Steelband concert, including the Honorable Anthony Phillips-Spencer, ambassador from Alexis’ native Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, where the steelpan was invented and remains the national instrument.
“It is not an exaggeration to state that Mr. Alexis is the Stradivarius of the steelpan,” said Paul Kassel, dean of the NIU College of Visual and Performing Arts. “His instruments are each a masterwork, and his skill has moved the instrument from its rough and homemade origins to a musically nuanced and finely tuned piece of craftsmanship.”
Well earned retirement Sir, congratulations on your doctoral degree.
Congratulations Cliff on a well-deserved honour.
So someone please opine on this: if Cliff Alexis, competent though he is enough for NIU’s palate, (and is called the STRADIVARIUS of the steelpan as a builder/tuner by them) pray tell, what should Ellie Mannette, for example, be called (and Ellie is not the only such)?
Stradivarius of the Steel Pan was the brand name created by Ellie’s former business manager Kaethe George to market his brand of steelband instruments “Mannette Steel Drums.” Being of high standard and quality.
More on Dr. Clifford Alexis...
Clifford had his first taste of Pan life traveling on the road along with the 1952 Carnival. In the late 1950’s he was given his first opportunity to arrange music for the Stereophonics Steelband. Clifford was given the opportunity to travel along with the National Steelband of Trinidad and Tobago in 1964. However the very next year Clifford moved to the USA and played with the BWIA Sunjets for two years, until he formed his own band, Cliff Alexis and the Trinidad Troubadours. His musical influences are rooted mostly in Pan. Some significant bands and individuals which shaped Clifford’s style include The Invaders, Rainhall Men, Emmanuel “Jack” Riley, and Earl Rodney.