Thu | Sep 21, 2017

Egerton Chang | He’ll blow your mind

Published:Sunday | March 26, 2017 | 3:00 AM
Egerton Chang

I first heard the sound of his trumpet one morning. He was blowing it on Waterloo Road near the intersection with West Kings House Road.

The crisp notes piercing the air, so that it could still be heard above the din of that early-morning traffic. That was almost a year ago.

The pitch and tone may not have been perfect, but it was good enough that one could tune out the traffic and for brief instances conjure up ... . In any case, it was a refreshing change to the hustle and bustle of the daily grind.

The next time I can remember hearing him was a few Sundays ago at Matilda's Corner. I was on my way to the gym.

On my way back, I stopped in traffic to ask him his name and number despite the honking of horns behind me, for I was holding up traffic.

Finally, a chance to interview him. At least that was what I thought. After arranging to link with him in front of the National Commercial Bank branch on Windward Road, he didn't show. I sat in the car for almost 25 minutes trying the number he had provided me. Once, twice, three times I called. No answer. Fourteen, 15, 16 times. Still no answer. Surely this must be a classic case of a good old Jamaican six for a nine, I thought.

Then I remembered he had told me he was working at Dunoon. I wasn't going to be denied. I wasn't going to come this far without making sure I had got shafted or not. So off to Dunoon.

There he was. Relaxing in the back of a car parked outside the gates of Dunoon Technical High School. He gave that time-tested excuse. The phone needed charging.

Anyway, his name is Dwayne Clarke. He is now 29 years old.

When he was around 14 years old, he joined the Eagles Drum and Bugle Corps where Sergeant Renaldo Cooper encouraged him and taught him how to play the trumpet.

 

SERIOUS STRUGGLE

 

He says life was a bit hard on his mother when he was growing up. She worked as a domestic helper/days worker - when she got the days. Which was not consistent enough or paid high enough to put two sons through school without serious struggle.

His father, a policeman, was, more often than not, an absentee father, Dwayne remembers. But whatever little he contributed to the house stopped when he died when Clarke was in the 10th grade at Norman Manley High.

Shortly after, Dwayne received a transfer to Kingston Technical, where he stayed for just three months.

Sometimes God works in mysterious ways. Dwayne, through the instrumentality of Monsignor Kenneth Richards and supported by the band leader Evel Monteith, was recommended to Archbishop Lawrence Burke for a scholarship to study pipe organ tuning.

(The Eagle Drum and Bugle Corps, at the time, was headquartered at Holy Trinity High School and actually had an office on the grounds of the cathedral.)

This scholarship, offered through the German Embassy, afforded Dwayne the opportunity to spend three months in Bonn, where he learned the intricacies of the art of tuning a pipe organ.

Dwayne also had the opportunity to visit Cologne on a couple of occasions and said that communicating was not a problem, as the organisers almost always provided an interpreter.

He says that the only problem he had was the food, which he said his Jamaican palate couldn't quite get used to.

Because of the handful of pipe organs in Jamaica, even with the small number of trained professionals in the field (three), there is not enough work to go around.

Dwayne's association with the Eagles outfit has afforded him other opportunities, chief of which is to participate in the annual Martin Luther King Parade held in Tampa, Florida, every year on the observance of MLK Day in January. He has played in all such annual events from 2004, missing only one.

 

CAUSING A NUISANCE

 

Dwayne says his favourite 'corner' to blow his trumpet is at the Waterloo-West Kings House intersection traffic lights opposite the Canadian High Commission.

However, Clarke says the high commission eventually asked him to move as they claimed his trumpet playing was causing a nuisance.

Nowadays, he just blows on weekends, as he got a steady gardening job at Dunoon some six months ago. His new favourite intersection is Matilda's Corner, where he plays his 'horns' all day on a Saturday and on Sunday mornings.

Dwayne says that the average contribution he receives is $4,500 per day, but I suspect it might be a little higher. He still needs to save towards his airfare and incidentals for the MLK Parade, so any little amount you can put in the 'hat', Dwayne would greatly appreciate it.

He says he is also available to play at other events.

Evel Monteith still leads the Eastern Rangers Drum and Bugle Corps (formerly Eagle Drum and Bugle Corps), which now operates out of the Windward Road Primary School, and continues to do yeoman work in that community. Mr Clarke is still a member.

By good fortune, while interviewing Dwayne outside Dunoon, I met his mother, Marcia McGregor, who also recently got a job in the kitchen at the high school.

She explained she has another son by the name of Javier Nembhard. Javier is in upper sixth form at Camperdown High School and Ms McGregor said that he is quite bright, having passed eight CXC and four CAPE subjects.

Marcia says that Javier plans to go into medicine and that she is quite proud of both of her sons.

She says one of Dwayne's favourites is You Raise Me Up, the chorus of which goes:

You raise me up, so I can stand on mountains;

You raise me up to walk on stormy seas;

I am strong when I am on your shoulders;

You raise me up to more than I can be.

I was able to take the accompanying photo of Ms McGregor with her son, Dwayne, outside Dunoon.

- Egerton Chang is a businessman. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and e_rider69@hotmail.com.