Mon | Dec 11, 2023

Marjorie Whylie needs your help

Niece appeals for support for iconic musical genius who has fallen on hard times, her health failing

Published:Sunday | November 5, 2023 | 12:10 AMErica Virtue - Senior Gleaner Writer
Seventy-nine-year-old Marjorie Whylie has had a storied life in the entertainment world.
Seventy-nine-year-old Marjorie Whylie has had a storied life in the entertainment world.
Marjorie Whylie is a genius on the drums.
Marjorie Whylie is a genius on the drums.
Ever the educator, Marjorie Whylie has imparted her musical knowledge to many
Ever the educator, Marjorie Whylie has imparted her musical knowledge to many

For decades she enriched countless hearts and souls with her incredible gifts and generous spirit. But today, she now stands in desperate need of the generosity of others.

Marjorie Whylie – one of Jamaica's musical icons, scholars and educators – has fallen on hard times, her health failing, and loved ones are appealing to the public for support.

“In recent years, Marjorie's health has been in decline due to diabetes, hypertension and early signs of dementia,” Lara Whylie, a niece of Marjorie's, wrote in a GoFundMe campaign seeking help.

“While having to take a large variety of medications for her illnesses and the challenges of her dementia combined, both her health and her household have to be managed by others. Nurses and caregivers have been with her 24/7.”

Lara said the pianist and drummer extraordinaire fell ill a few months ago and had to be hospitalised.

“As a result, her dementia progressed. She has repetitive behaviour and speech; frustration when unable to find items; talks to herself frequently, sometimes believes she has visitors or is conversing with friends,” Lara said.

“At nights, she occasionally wanders looking for certain people, with no memory of these events afterwards. This is why 24/7 [help] is needed for the sake of her safety. She is no longer able to prepare her own meals or shop for own groceries and supplies. She has a history of knee surgery and continues to experience pain post-surgery, specifically in her back and knee. She also needs assistance when doing simple tasks.”

Lara, who has been Marjorie's main caregiver since February, created the fundraising campaign with the hope of raising CDN$60,000 for her aunt's home care. So far she has got approximately CDN$12,000.

Lara said her aunt's house is in “severe need of repair and maintenance” as the roof is leaking and needs to be replaced.

According to her, Dr Aggrey Irons and Dr Lorenzo Gordon “have diagnosed and tended to Marjorie's critical health challenges. They have advised that due to her dementia, she needs to remain in her familiar surroundings.”

But the house, she said, has not been fully maintained for several years. She fears that the house may be infested with mould due to the leaks, noting that there is also a termite infestation.

“This may soon make it unsafe to reside in,” she said.

Utilities such as electricity, water, cable, Internet and phone are either cut off or about to be because payments for them rely on the donation of others.

“Marjorie has absolutely no money left,” Lara said.


Described as a generous, lively, smart, capable and good-hearted human being, 79-year-old Marjorie has had a storied life in the entertainment world. She began playing piano when she was two and a half years old, getting formal lessons at the age of six. At age five, she gave her first public performance.

Lara fondly shared some of her aunt's many accomplishments.

“Many of you know of Marjorie Whylie for her brilliance as a pianist, percussionist, and educator,” she said.

“To name only a few of her many achievements, she was the musical director of the National Dance Theatre Company from its near beginning for 45 years; has two published books: Folk Songs of Jamaica and Our Musical Heritage: The Power of the Beat; was the lead of her band Whylie Wrythm; played the piano for Miss Lou's show, 'Ring Ding'; was head of the folk music of the Jamaica School of Music – now the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts; and head of the music unit at The University of the West Indies.”

She continued, “Marjorie Whylie is an icon. A national treasure. Many also know of her fruitful, outstanding personality, which still exists to this day! She has touched the hearts and impressively entertained several for decades. She has contributed her heart and soul to a degree that goes above and beyond what has been expected of her.”


Lara bemoaned that, “The costs of Marjorie's nurses, caregivers, medical needs and house maintenance have become extremely high and can no longer be covered. Her nurses were generous and kind enough to stay, even while not being paid for months, due to the dangers of leaving her alone. Regretfully and understandably, they've recently had to discontinue their service. This leaves Marjorie in absolute danger.”

Accordingly, she said, “the maintenance and repair of her home must be tended to and her nurses and caregivers must return to take care of her. Hence, donations are needed immediately for such to assure Marjorie's safety and well-being.”

Lara ended her post with, “PLEASE GIVE AS SOON AS YOU CAN.”

Persons offering assistance have shared fond memories of the musical genius.

One donor described Marjorie as “one of the best music/drumming teachers in Jamaica. We are sad to know that she has fallen on hard times.”

Another said, “I have such great memories of her lively performances and direction of the NDTC musicians for so many years. Her bright smile, and immense talent. Jamaica should know how much she gave to our artists and to the musical art form.”

John Hopkin said, “I shared an office with Marjorie one semester at Jamaica School of Music in the early 1980s. It was a privilege. Then and since, I have deeply appreciated her work as a musician, scholar and educator, and especially as a generous, lively, smart, capable and good-hearted human being.”

Persons wishing to donate can go to