When I was first approached by Dr. Ivelaw Griffith, Vice Chancellor of the University of Guyana, to serve for a year with the AIR (Artist in Residence) programme at UG, I wasn’t sure about what I would be taking on. As I told the VC, and later the Deputy VC Dr. Paloma Martin, I know better than to consider myself an educator, but both of them emphasized that I was not being asked to operate as the conventional teacher, but more as a provocateur, or presenter, of discussion to do with the arts and, perhaps, some topics of my choice, and that was how I went into it.
Whatever trepidation I had fell away from my very first involvement with AIR at the institution’s Christmas gathering at the Turkeyen campus which was a totally musical one for me and a relaxed one indeed as the UG crowd took over the singing of the songs from the first song the musicians and I played; we were off and running – no blackboard, no formal lecture, not a dunce cap in sight. Later, there were even higher points, including the Seawall Bandstand performance, a show in Anna Regina, a blazing night with the Tain crowd in New Amsterdam, and a similar jam at Linden a few weeks later.
Apart from the immediate response of a crowd to music, I have also come as close to teacher as I wish to be in some more “educator” type presentations, at Tain and Turkeyen, with some thoughts on arts careers, and I came away from those sessions intrigued by the comments or questions from the gatherings. I had expected the traditional questions – inspiration for songs; remembering lyrics for scores of songs; the joys, or otherwise, of travel; etc. – but there were occasions, sometimes after the session, where encounters with young people took me into areas that surprised me. I particularly recall a young lady at Turkeyen who posed a question I have never been asked – how about the songs that didn’t work, or become popular, how do you deal with that? Following her quiet apology for the query, I hastened to assure her that none was necessary and that in fact the question had never been posed to me but I commented that it was simply part of the game that you had to accept and move on…..