Hugh’s musical task
In almost every society, artists are usually a struggling breed, doing what they do primarily for the love of it. Hugh Anthony Griffith is such a man. Not a struggling artist, but one with a purpose and a vision to see the arts, especially music, gain the respect he believes it deserves at every level in the Barbadian society.
In order to overcome any challenge and complete any goal, there must be a process, and with Hugh it is no different.
His process started with the Ignatius Byer Primary School, where he has been teaching music, visual arts and performing arts for the last eight years, making a positive impact on the students and, by extension, their parents. Hugh’s foray into teaching music was a progression that started after he left Queen’s College in 2001 and went on to study at Barbados Community College (BCC), attaining his Associate degree some two years later. After this he was employed by the National Cultural Foundation (NCF) in their Music in Primary Schools Training Programme.
However, despite the training programme in primary schools and Hugh’s acknowledgement that formal music education in Barbados has come a long way, he believes much more can be done to improve the current status. The gospel and jazz music fan says: “Music is an essential part of my life, but I believe it is still an underappreciated art in the general institutional, educational curriculum of our country.”
He continues: “The major drawback for me is that there is no music degree programme [Bachelor’s] in Barbados, not at BCC and not at the University of the West Indies. I think it’s time our educational system, via Government, addresses that.”
For six years, Hugh was a member of the Barbados National Youth Orchestra, continuing to develop his talents with the saxophone and performing the roles of arranger and section leader until 2008, when that chapter of his life was closed.
Currently enrolled at the University of the West Indies, he is pursuing a Bachelor of Fine Arts, majoring in creative arts, with a minor in music. This programme is executed and overseen by the Errol Barrow Centre For Creative Imagination, where Hugh also does film and theatre courses.
In 2008, the multi-instrumentalist, who can play baritone saxophone, drums, percussion and keyboard, received the President’s Award from the Ignatius Byer Primary School’s Parent-Teacher Association for his “outstanding contribution to the development of music” at the school.
Thirty-year-old Hugh, who has been practising music from the time he was nine years old at Wesley Hall Primary, playing recorder, clarinet, then alto saxophone, uses his gifts to enhance the musical landscape on the island as much as he can. He also conducts private lessons in music theory and introductory keys at BCC and Ignatius Byer.
He says of his job: “I love music and teaching, and I thank God that I get to combine both almost every single day.”
The recipient of the Irving Burgie Award for excellence in literary and creative arts back in 2002 says that he attributes his success to the way he approaches the children he teaches, who calls him Music Sir.
“When I’m teaching, I’m not afraid to make a fool of myself – intentionally, of course, if it helps my pupils to learn with a smile,” he explains. “So I would purposely sing wrong words, sing badly, out of tune, walk on and off the stage poorly just so a child could ‘correct’ me, as if I didn’t know.”
Since 2007 the Ignatius Byer Primary School Choir has attained a total of four bronze awards and one silver with Rebuke The Devil, all of which are Hugh’s original compositions. The school’s choir, under Hugh’s direction, has an enviable record, taking part in a total of ten competitions between 2006 and 2011, placing second on four occasions and winning five times.
Currently a member of a Bajan jazz group – 1688 Orchestra And Collective, led by Stefan Walcott – Hugh is taking it one step at a time. Music Sir has only just begun!