March 12, 2003 — Some St. Croix residents — the musical tradition bearers — will talk of music or sing or play. Some St. Croix residents will listen, and learn how to record for all time what the musical tradition bearers say and sing to us.
A workshop, "Documenting Living Treasures," will be presented on St. Croix March 26-29 by the Alton Augustus Adams Music Research Institute (AMRI), a branch of the Center for Black Music Research (CBMR) of Columbia College Chicago.
And the workshop will culminate in a free public Summit honoring Crucian tradition bearers. Among those to be honored are Helen Joseph, Leona Watson, and Gail Watson Chiang. The summit and reception at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, March 29, will feature Stanley Jacobs and Six Pack. It will be held at the cafetorium on the St. Croix campus of the University of the Virgin Islands.
Led by Dr. Johann Buis and Suzanne Flandreau of the Center staff, a small group of St. Croix residents will meet four hours each day to learn ways to capture bits of history that otherwise might go unrecorded: the fascinating life stories of some of the territory's renowned and lesser known musicians who are keeping V.I. traditional music alive.
The participants will receiving training in field research and will explore ethical issues that sometimes arise when recording life stories of local musicians. Each participant will design an oral history project around a local musical tradition bearer. The completed projects then become part of the resource holdings of the Adams Institute, the CBMR, and a local library, where they may be used by researchers, scholars, educators and the general public.
Local expert Dr. Lauren Larsen will serve as a guest lecturer for the workshop.
AMRI, the Caribbean branch for CBMR, was established in 2001 and is located on St. Thomas, where it will be housed at the Adams family homestead in Charlotte Amalie. Its mission is to serve as a research facility to study and document black music in the Caribbean region and in particular the Virgin Islands.
The St. Croix workshop will be similar to the one offered in St. Thomas during June 2002, which attracted a broad cross-section of the St. Thomas and St. John communities. Despite their diverse backgrounds, the participants had one thing in common — a genuine interest in preserving the stories of Virgin Islanders who are the musical tradition bearers of the culture.
Unlike most workshops in which the participants pay a registration fee, participants accepted to the workshop will receive an honorarium of $100 upon completion of the workshop and an additional $100 for submitting their completed oral history project. The tradition bearers who agree to be interviewed will also be compensated.
"Because we value the time and effort of the resident researchers and the expertise and knowledge of the tradition bearers, we offer honoraria as tokens of our appreciation and recognition of their work," said Rosita Sands, director of the Center. "We hope that all involved, however, will realize that the true value can be found in the contribution their efforts make to V.I. culture and to the important goal of documenting and preserving these treasured stories as historical accounts," she continued.
The workshop will culminate with a free public "Summit of Tradition Bearers" that will honor several Crucian musicians for their lifetime contributions to the V.I. musical heritage. The public will be able to ask questions of the musicians and hear some of their rich and colorful stories of their lives.
The 2002 summit in St. Thomas honored Alwyn "Lad" Richards and James "Jamesie" Brewster of St. Thomas, Delita O'Connor of St. John, and Stanley Jacobs and Eldred Christian of St. Croix.
Wanda Mills, one of the June 2002 workshop participants and the territory's historic preservation planner at the Historic Preservation office, selected two tradition bearers for her project: radio personality and drummer Irvin "Brownie" Brown and saxophonist Alwyn "Lad" Richards. "I am really excited about this project. The documentation of oral histories is something that we really need in the Virgin Islands. It also gives me the opportunity to use my skills in documenting oral history," Mills said.
Those interested in participating in the March workshop should contact Martin Lamkin, the local AMRI program manager, at (340) 693-1194, or write to AMRI at PO Box 11357. The application deadline has been extended from March 10, and it is not too late to apply.
This project is supported in part with funding from the Virgin Islands Humanities Council, and the summit is being co-sponsored by the Social Science Division on the St. Croix campus of UVI.
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