Roy Cape Tackles Music Literacy with Foundation


Published on Sunday April 2nd 2017

AS of March 1, after 57 years, veteran musician and band leader Roy “Pappy” Cape “hung up” his prized Selmar Parris Super 80 saxophone as a performer with the long-standing brass band he formed – Roy Cape All Stars.

He said that was not how he wanted to end his career, but it just happened. 

Speaking from his home in Oropune Gardens, Piarco, Cape related his story: “I was diagnosed with cancer in 2014, and it changed my life completely. I had to take care of myself and that has been my focus over the last few years. From now on there will be no more Roy Cape All Stars. I have reached an agreement with the band. They are still functioning, and will call a press conference to announce the new name sometime later.” But somehow Cape’s story seems to have taken a turn which sees him busier than when he was playing with the band. He is now always on the go as an organizer, and chairman of the Roy Cape Foundation. He said the idea of the foundation was sparked in January 2016 by the killing of two schoolboys on their way home from school, and the deteriorating personal security situation in the Laventille community. 

“A friend called and informed me of the shooting and suggested that we do whatever we could to initiate a community programme of music education to engage young persons in the joy of learning music as a means of combating the threat of violence and other anti-social behaviour which have seemingly become a way of life in the community. 

“I found the idea to be very relevant and timely, and we immediately set about crafting a letter to the Minister of National Security Edmund Dillon offering to donate a set of Marching Band Drums, Woodwind and Brass instruments to initiate a pilot programme of music education in Laventille. The minister’s response was positive and we began collaboration with the Office of Law Enforcement Policy (OLEP), a unit of the Ministry of National Security,” Cape related. 

The Roy Cape Foundation’s goal is to bring hope and healing to communities through music education. It was founded in February 2016 and registered under the Companies Act. 

According to Cape, the Foundation’s mission is to make music literacy and instrument performance programmes available to interested persons of various ethnic, cultural and socio-economic backgrounds in at-risk communities throughout Trinidad and Tobago in preparation for pursuit of possible careers in the Arts, Entertainment and Music Industry. “This is my way, my sense of obligation to give back to the community in the best way I know how; through music,” said a smiling Cape. 

Cape said he worked with the Ministry of Culture in 2013 as part of its Music Schools in the Community programme, and loved the idea. 

“I always had in my mind a concern for the music in Trinidad and Tobago,” he said. “The theory part of the music fell through the window in the everyday styling. 

I know I wanted to do a programme for the children, to teach them, and also at the end to leave the instruments to the community. 

Something will happen in Laventille in the near future as we have already given them the instruments.” The Roy Cape Foundation is now working with local social organisations, WAND and FEEL, to expand its programme. 

Cape said, “I met Selwyn Ryan and told him about my foundation and he introduced me to his wife Jan Bocas Ryan. She is the founder of Women in Action for the Needy and Destitute (WAND). I spoke to her and she said I was a God-send. WAND’s last Board meeting they were talking about using music in our programme. The Roy Cape Foundation is now working with WAND and FEEL to expand its programme. The collaboration will put the programme in about 15 communities throughout Trinidad and Tobago. 

“I have been writing to the Japanese, Germany, British Embassies and UNESCO about the programme. Even some of my friends are helping to donate instruments to the programme. I have also met with the Foundation for the Enhancement and Enrichment of Life (FEEL) and I started to get instruments to them in Sangre Grande, San Fernando, YTC, and the St James Police Youth Club. 

“We are still in meetings, developing our plans to include schools as far as Toco. Our first project will be in Morvant, but the venue is still to be determined. This will be our pilot project, and we will move on with a module. For now, we will be giving the children four trumpets, three trombones, four saxophones, four flutes and four clarinets. As we go along we will have recorders, guitars, keyboards, violins, electric basses, and cellos. The intention is to have an orchestra in every community, with their tutors and instruments “Tutors will be musicians I have played with through the years. In all it will be 75 tutors, and the instruments will stay with the community organisation. It must be a registered organisation. 

We met with the ladies and it feels like the work is already finished, I would like to thank Mrs Jan Bocas Ryan, Elena Sylvester CEO of Feel, and Nicole M Galt for having a similar vision as the Foundation.” About his involvement Cape says: “Dealing with children is a serious responsibility, and I take this very serious. 

It’s a task but it is part of my life. This is like me living a dream. We are hoping the first programme will start with 25 children, and will run for two 12- week semesters. After the first one there will be a break and then another semester will start. WAND already has a relationship in the communities so it will be much easier. Something is happening in the music industry as Cordettes, Angel Harps and someone in Mayaro have been calling about the programme. 

Ainsworth Mohammed at Exodus has over 100 children in his programme.” Recounting his boyhood days, Cape said: “It is public knowledge that I grew up at the Belmont Orphanage, and the St Mary’s Home in Tacarigua. 

In my time, we all went to school within the walls of the institution. The bright guys were able to go to college outside. 

Today this is not happening, everybody goes to school outside of the institution. 

The children just don’t have time anymore. 

Early morning it’s off to school, and when they are back in the evening it’s homework and sleep. St Michael’s Home for Boys also produced musicians but that is not happening anymore. 

I feel we are on the right track. The children need things to do to give them a different direction, and music is one thing that is associated with peace, love and happiness. 

I still say to the youths, if you have the opportunity and you are doing well in school continue. Get your degree. 

“In small countries as a musician the life is rough. In TT we have Carnival, and after Carnival, months pass by without getting any jobs. Education is very important. 

If you have your degree you can play music and don’t have to worry about survival. 

Athletes all go to university and get their education because of the time factor on their bodies. 

Music does not have a time frame, I am 75-years-old and still play, but sports have a time frame on the body so it is import to qualify yourself.” Seeing the music revolution in Venezuela, where youths are all involved in orchestras, gave Cape and his team a stronger belief that they are on to something positive. 

The programme is for youths from ages eight to 21, but elders can fall in and try to fulfil their dreams. 

Cape is also introducing a new line of instruments to the youths. These instruments are made of plastic: he has a trumpet and trombone. He says if the children can use them it will be less expensive and he will be able to get many more instruments. 

The foundation has asked Major Edouard Wade to be their music consultant and he is working on a music manual. Cape said he also had his long-time friend Ron Berridge do a manual, but he is far off in Arizona in the United States. 

He did 50-plus pages of music and sent it since November 2013. 

“That is how long I have been working on this, but nothing happens before its time,” ended Cape.