Noel George Dexter, OD, DLitt. (Hon), BSc., LTCL.
(December 21, 1938 – August 19, 2019)
Noel George Dexter, sees himself as the quintessential Port Antonio man. He spent his entire High School years at Titchfield where he excelled, not only academically, but in sports, representing the school in Track & Field, Football, Hockey, and in Culture, in the Portland Festival of Music Arts and Drama in singing, piano, dance and drama. After graduating from High School in 1958, he was an active member of the Port Antonio Drama Group which performed creditably in the National Festival, and was the heart and soul of a popular dance band which performed in and around Port Antonio for several years.
Also following graduation from Titchfield, he taught at the Hope Bay Primary School, and in 1959, under the direction of Hope Bay School gained enough points to become the champion in the speech section of the Portland Parish Festival. In 1960, he joined the staff at Ardenne High School to teach geography and economics, and later, music. As choirmaster, Ardenne received numerous gold medals and awards of excellence, and was selected to be a part of Jamaica’s contribution to Carifesta III in Cuba, 1979.
He joined the Repertory Players, and for his performance in Sam Hillary’s play “Chippy”, he won the award for the Best Supporting Actor in the Annual Adult Drama Festival in 1956. He was named ‘runner-up’ to the champion in the adult class for speech, in what is now the JCDC and travelled as a demonstrator with the late Wycliffe Bennett in the workshops which Mr. Bennett conducted in rural Jamaica.
Noel Dexter was also a member of the Jamaica Operatic Society, and appeared in the chorus of “Pirates of Penzance”, “Desert Song” and ”The Boyfriend”. He played a minor roll in the National Pantomime, Banana Boy, for which he composed the music for a short dance sequence. This music is still heard in the score for the NDTC dance, Plantation Revelry.
He studied at the University of the West Indies, where he received a B.Sc. in Economics from the Faculty of Social Sciences in 1967 and followed a higher calling by completing the Licentiate of Trinity College, L.T.C.L., in Classroom Music Teaching. Responding to the rhythms within himself, he proceeded after seventeen (17) years teaching geography, economics and music at Ardenne High School, to complete a Diploma in Musicology and Folklore Studies at the Jamaica School of Music with the aid of a fellowship from the Organization of American States (OAS). He founded and led the Youth Fellowship Singers, (later known as the Kingston Singers). This choir which he led for over two decades gave concerts all over Jamaica and toured Grand Cayman, Nassau Bahamas, as well as the United States in parts of Florida, New York, Washington, Detroit, Lancaster and Anderson, Indiana. The group had so distinguished itself in the JCDC music competition that in 1974 the Kingston and St. Andrew Parish Festival Committee retired it with a special award for “Consistent High Performance”.
Mr. Dexter taught music at Mona Preparatory School, and became the coordinator of the Caribbean Church Music Programme of the Caribbean Conference of Churches, and lecturer in music at Mico Teacher Training College and the United Theological College of the West Indies.
Having sung as a member of the University Singers while a student, he was eventually to become the Musical Director of this outstanding choral group in 1977, and Director of Music at the UWI Mona Campus. He continued in both positions until retirement in 2003, and from that time till now, he has been serving as the coordinator and consultant in Choral Music at the Mona Campus, UWI, which currently has eight hall choirs, the University Chorale, the University Singers and the Mona Campus Male Chorus. He has broadened himself by visiting and revisiting the summer sessions at Westminster Choir College in New Jersey, USA, honing his skills in training young voices, vocal techniques, choral writing, choral arranging and choral conducting, as well as studying the Church Choir at the Royal School of Church Music in London.
Noel has led the University Singers on numerous overseas tours. In addition, he has served the Regional Community as adjudicator in Music Festivals in Jamaica and Grenada as well as a judge of the Caribbean Broadcasting Union song competition. He has lectured or served as guest conductor in the Bahamas, British Virgin Islands, Barbados, Grand Cayman, Dominica, Antigua, the Music Faculty of the University of the U.S. Virgin Islands, the School of Continuing Studies, Belize, Fredonia College and Emory University in the USA, Queens College, Canada, and Methodist Churches in Nevis, St. Maarten, St. Thomas and Montserrat.
He has several recordings to his credit, including an LP of Caribbean Church Music and a double 45 of Christmas Music. He is also the composer of numerous musical works including hymns, anthems, patriotic songs and songs for children, and edited the Caribbean School Hymn Book. He has also written and arranged music for over ten theatrical productions, including seven (7) National Pantomimes, and was given the honour of being commissioned to write the song celebrating the re-introduction of Emancipation Day as a Public Holiday in Jamaica, in 1997. He has received numerous awards from the UWI, including the Pelican Award from the guild of Graduates in 1996, the Philip Sherlock Centre Award (2013), the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Letters (2013), from Ardenne High, where he taught, from the Caribbean Conference of Churches, the Silver Musgrave Medal from the Institute of Jamaica, and the Order of Distinction for services in the field of music, from the Government of Jamaica. In 2013, Mr. Dexter received the AMCHAM Award for excellence from the American Chamber of Commerce Jamaica for Business and Civic Leadership and The Gleaner Honour Award for Lifetime Achievement (2016) for his contribution to indigenous music in Jamaica and the Caribbean, as a composer and music director. Yet in his profound humility, he continued to go about his business each day in a manner which confirms that he was not overly concerned with the levels of excellence that he has attained, and the esteem in which he is held as a truly great Caribbean Musician and Musicologist.
Music for Jamaican Theatre
1977 Cindy Jamaica Children’s’ Theatre
1980 Mansong LTM Pantomime
1984 Sipple Silver LTM Pantomime
1986 River Mumma and the Golden Table LTM Pantomime
1987 King Root LTM Pantomime
1988 Bruckins LTM Pantomime
1989 Jumbie Jamboree Jim Nelson Production
2004 Bedward Louis Marriot Production
2010 The Return of Bedward Louis Marriot Production
Titchfield Old Students for outstanding achievement in choral music and the development of Caribbean Church Music
1980 Regional Ecumenical Award – Caribbean Composer
1983 Silver Musgrave Medal Institute of Jamaica
1983 Order of Distinction Government of Jamaica
1986 Staff and Consultant Award Caribbean Conference of Churches
1988 60th Anniversary Award for outstanding Ardenne High School service in music
1988 Jamaica Music Industry Award JAMI
1996 Little People Teen Players Club Award
for invaluable contribution
1997 Wings of Song Award in recognition
and appreciation to Jamaica and Caribbean
development of artistic talent
1999 UWI Mona Campus in recognition of
outstanding contribution to the
development of Caribbean music and
dedicated service to the community of
2000 Ardenne High School Special Award Ardenne High School
Mannings Hill Youth Chorale for invaluable contribution and service
2002 Nexus Award Nexus Performing Arts Group
2003 Prime Minister’s Award, Government of Jamaica
2012 Ardenne High School Alumni Choir Award, Ardenne High School
2013 Philip Sherlock Centre Award, UWI Mona
2013 AMCHAM Award American Chamber of Commerce, Jamaica
2013 Honorary Doctor of Letters, UWI Mona
2015 Gleaner Honor Award – The Gleaner Company Lifetime Achievement Award
2017 Jamaica 55 Living Legacy Award Caribbean Community of Retired Persons (CCRP)
Carol & Noel Dexter & Lilieth Nelson