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Keep your award - Acclaimed pianist rejects national honour, accuses Government of ignoring the arts

Published:Sunday | October 6, 2013 | 12:00 AM
Classical pianist Orrett Rhoden - File

Arthur Hall, Senior News Editor

Celebrated Jamaican concert pianist Orrett Rhoden has told Jamaica House that he has decided not to accept the Order of Distinction in the rank of Commander Class (CD) this year.

On Independence Day, August 6, it was announced that Orrett Dexter Anthony Rhoden would be awarded a CD for his outstanding contribution to the development of classical music in Jamaica.

But yesterday, Rhoden told The Sunday Gleaner that he had indicated to Jamaica House that he would not accept the award, which was scheduled to be conferred upon him at King's House on National Heroes Day later this month.

Rhoden, who is in the middle of organising the second Orrett Rhoden International Music Festival of Jamaica to take place this November, said he had requested audience with Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller on more than one occasion, but he is yet to receive any positive reaction from her office.


"I only wanted to get her blessing on my festival and to make known to her the great plans I have to take music and tourism in this country to the next level and the necessity to have support from the top," said Rhoden.

According to Rhoden, he was seeking financial and moral support from the Government and anticipated that Simpson Miller would have understood.

"Jamaica House never even responded to my letters, and I thought this was an insult. If you write a letter to the White House (office of the president of the United States), you are going to get a response."

He said his decision is a way of showing musicians that they should stand up for what they believe in.

"Unfortunately, almost nothing has been done to remedy the decaying state of the arts in this country since the office of former Prime Minister Edward Seaga, and I recently had a most disappointing meeting with the minister of tourism, Wykeham McNeill.

"I now intend to go forward by myself, of course, with the support of my many colleagues and friends, here and abroad," added Rhoden, as he argued that the festival would show a different side of Jamaican culture.


Rhoden first received international acclaim after appearing in two BBC documentaries on Her Majesty The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh's visit to Jamaica in 1983.

He went on to make his London debut with the London Symphony Orchestra at the Barbican in 1984, then his Carnegie Hall debut in 1985.

According to Rhoden, he is passionate and excited about this year's festival, which has a line-up of a dozen local and internationally famous artistes.

The classical pianist said he intends to raise funds to build the first opera house in Kingston, as well as to launch an international institute for music in Westmoreland.

He said the Orrett Rhoden International Music Festival of Jamaica, which is slated for November 24 to December 1, aims to bring classical music alive in Jamaica with its annual concert series in Kingston and Westmoreland.