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Caian conductor wins prestigious arts award

  • 02 December 2016

Kwamé Ryan, a Caian music graduate, has won a high-profile award for his work as an internationally renowned conductor and music educator in the Caribbean.

Kwamé, who came up to Caius in 1989 and is now based in his home country of Trinidad, was named as one of four Laureates in the Anthony N Sabga Caribbean Awards, sharing the award for the Arts & Letters category. The awards, founded in 2005, recognise significant Caribbean achievement in arts, sciences and public and civic work and are intended to encourage and support the pursuit of excellence for the benefit of the region.

A globe-spanning career as a conductor has seen Kwamé work with some of the leading orchestras and opera houses of Australia, France, Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States. He now combines conducting with a role as Director of the Academy for the Performing Arts at the University of Trinidad & Tobago (UTT).  Having worked with a range of high profile national youth orchestras in Europe and the United States, he sought to put this network at the disposal of young musicians in the Caribbean. 

In 2012, he first collaborated with the Heroes Foundation charity to create a music mentorship event, which saw young local musicians participating in workshops and concerts with members of international orchestras. Inspired by the success of this pilot, he proposed to the UTT the development of an international peer exchange programme in residence at its Academy for the Performing Arts. Offered the position of director at the Academy, he realised his vision in 2015, launching the musical youth exchange, CONNECTT, subsequently renamed The Youth Music Exchange (YMX).

Kwamé intends not only to grow YMX, but also to expand The Academy’s range of offerings and international reach in music technology, dance, acting, animation, as well as in theatre design and production. His vision for performing arts pedagogy at the APA emphasises the preservation of long-standing cultural traditions alongside ground-breaking innovation, all with the goal of building a world-class but uniquely Caribbean institution - a hub of excellence and achievement in the performing arts unlike any other in the region.

Born in Canada in 1970 of Trinidadian parentage, Mr. Ryan grew up on the island, but left aged 14 to pursue a career in classical music in the UK as there was then no means to do so locally. He attended Oakham School, originally to study piano, voice and violin, but switched from violin to double bass, becoming - after only three years’ tuition - Principal Double Bassist in the National Youth Orchestra, and in the National Youth Chamber Orchestra of England. Moving on to Caius, he gained a BA and an MA in Musicology (1992/1996). He also studied Advanced Conducting at The Peter Eötvös Conducting Institute in Szombately, Hungary, while working as a Teaching Assistant at Tübingen University, Germany, before launching his conducting career.

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