This year, it was a valedictory for long time co-director and pan pounder extraordinaire Cliff Alexis.
Here's how Trinidad and Tobago's Guardian reported the story.
Alexis tutored students in steelband arranging, playing technique, composition, as well as the craft of building, tuning, and creating steelpans. In addition, Alexis was the resident tuner/builder for the NIU steelband and established a steelpan factory where he taught apprentices and provided steelpan instrument for sale throughout the United States mainly to other universities.Over the years. I've had the opportunity to watch these young people develop as performers. Some have become members of the diplomatic corps,
The impact of Cliff Alexis’s work at NIU cannot be understated. One need only look to his wealth of former students to see the incredible reach of Alexis’s influence.
Alexis had a hand in training a great number of the steelpan educators who, after studying under his tutelage at NIU, are now teaching in T&T at both UWI and UTT. These professors, lecturers and tutors include Jeannine Remy, Sat Sharma, Harold Headley, Barry Mannette, and Khion De Las at UWI, and Mia Gormandy, Seion Gomes and Akua Leith at UTT.
Mr Alexis will receive the L.H.D. at May's graduations.
The honorary degree was totally unexpected and came as a real surprise to Alexis.His advice to the concert-goers: Mentor the young people. That's part of the academic calling, whether your conservatory is a fancy one or a gathering on the waterfront.
He was gobsmacked and in disbelief that he was even being considered for an honorary doctorate.
For Alexis, it meant that his lifelong dedication to educating the people around him, especially his students, about the boundless possibilities of steelband has been given the stamp of approval and is recognised as academically sound.
Alexis noted to former student Jeannine Remy: “I even have to wear a cap and gown!” and in the next breath, mused, “I could not even imagine this would happen to someone who grew up behind the bridge.”