MONDAY MAN: Reaching youth with music
TREVOR KIRTON has been teaching music at the Government Industrial School for 35 years. After he volunteered to teach music there, the impact on the students was so great that he was offered the job full-time. However, his initial inclination when he saw the height and size of the boys was to say no. This was as a result of the preconceived notion that many have about the residents at the school being bad boys. They are, he insists, actually good boys.
“I had gone over there to do some volunteer work back in the early 80s and we started a choir with the staff and students,” Kirton explained. “The then principal, Hensley Robinson, noticed that on evenings the boys would be singing the songs in the shower and at nights so he thought music would be a beautiful addition to the school curriculum.”
It was thought that the music would an aid in the rehabilitation of the students. After starting the choir the interest grew and the theory of music was added.
Kirton also worked with the girls until they were moved to Harrison Point, St Lucy.
He said his inclination to volunteer came out of his desire to live a true Christian life and give of himself to others. “I am a Christian,” he said. “To serve God is to serve humanity and if I am going to be a good steward of what God has given to me then I need to demonstrate it by my love for mankind.”
As a child, Kirton’s dream and only dream was to be a doctor, a paediatrician to be exact. However, his mother was unable to finance it and he had to shelve that idea. At age 17, while working on a job with his brother who owns a construction company, he heard a 12-year-old boy playing the organ and was immediately drawn to it.
“I went in and I asked him where he acquired the skills and he told me an old lady by the name of Miss Olga Miller who lived in the Six Roads area and I got on board and she was really a disciplinarian and it worked for me,” Kirton said.
Now he uses his love for music to assist the young men who need it most.
The music that the students learn is for a certificate; they do keyboards, guitar, percussion, which appeals to boys the most, and the steel pan, the latest addition.
“We wanted to get them more involved because from studies we recognise the influence of music therapy to help them to calm down, relax, mature and focus. It really has helped tremendously in that some of the more aggressive ones would have calmed down as they found a niche with the music,” Kirton said.
Giving an example, he said those who have problems with literacy would find it easier to come into music if they can use the ear; it can be a positive for them as they can excel at it.
“We speak about the power of music to change,” he said. “We know that every living being will be in some way attracted to music because music is a part of our life from the beginning until the end.”
Kirton has a steel pan group of young men, some of whom would have been through the Government Industrial School. His son is a member of the group.
He also owns and operates TK’s Institute of Music which prepares students for examinations of the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music. His youngest student is two years old and he has some mature students as well.
Kirton was honoured last year by the St Philip Independence Community for his contribution to music and the development of young people. He said knowing that his work had helped with the development of the country’s youth gave him a great sense of joy.
“My aim was to facilitate change and that is happening so I feel tremendous about it. They may think that we the older ones do not understand but we do; we have been there,” Kirton said.
He holds a degree in theology and that also comes in helpful in his work.
Kirton is in the process of writing an autobiography entitled Let the Eagles Fly which chronicles his life from his initial interest in music.