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Marjorie Whylie


Marjorie Whylie remains one of the key players in the NDTC’s renewal and continuity trajectory since 1965 when she joined the Company as a pianist giving expressive meaning to Oswald Russell’s scores for Legend of Lovers’ Leap and Games of Arms two of Eddy Thomas’s early dance creations. She was to succeed Mapletoft Poulle as Musical Director and Joyce Lalor as Leader of the NDTC Singers. The NDTC drew on her steadily developing talents which have earned her considerable respect at home and critical acclaim abroad. She is a multi-talented musicologist, pianist, percussionist, jazz singer, academician and served as Head of the Folk Music Research Department of the Jamaica School of Music, which became a Division of the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts. During her second year, Whylie became Director of Studies, a position she held for five years and also acted as Head of the School of Music before heading the Music Unit in the Philip Sherlock Centre for the Creative Arts at the Mona Campus of the University of the West Indies with Senior Lecturer (associate professor) rank. Ms Whylie’s original compositions range from Mountain Women (1972), Ni Woman of Destiny (1976) and I Not I (1977) for Sheila Barnett, Blood Canticles (1996), Drumscore (1979) and Apocalypse (2009) for Rex Nettleford, Caribbean Canvas (1988) for Bert Rose, The Black Widow (1987) and Journeys Beyond Survival (1992) for Clive Thompson and Bruckins (2002) for Barry Moncrieffe and Joyce Campbell as well as the music for Chris Walker’s 2007 Hill ‘N’ Gully. But some of her most important collaborations turn on the arrangements/orchestrations of the traditional lore employed by co-founder and former Artistic Director Rex Nettleford to produce such master-works as Myal (1974), Drumscore (1979) and Gerrehbenta (1983). Her talents have been duly acknowledged by the Institute of Jamaica which bestowed on her a Musgrave Medal (1972), by the alumni of her alma mater, the UWI, which gave her the much coveted Pelican Award (1994), by the Prime Minister’s Prestigious Award for Excellence (2004) and by her peers in music with a number of Jamaica Music Industry awards in 1987, 1988 and 1991. She remains a major creative artist in the contemporary Caribbean and has been inducted into the Jamaica Jazz Hall of Fame (1999). Her most recent awards include the Order of Distinction in the rank of Commander for outstanding contribution to Arts, especially Music and Theatre, the Rex Nettleford Foundation Award (2016) and on the 70th anniversary of the university of the West Indies 2019, Whylie was one of the seventy female graduates hounoured by the Department of Gender and Development Studies as well as one of the sixty JAMAICAN WOMEN OF DISTINCTION, a book published by the Gleaner Company on women in several areas of endeavour. Whylie has served as leader of the Jamaica Big Band for the past nine years, teaches piano, voice and hand drums at home to students, continues writing canticles, settings of the psalms and songs for worship and performs on special occasions on solo piano.