Derek –– educator and music maker
Name: Derek Marshall.
Education: Barbados Community College; Erdiston Teachers’ Training College; Queen’s College.
Qualifications: Teaching Certificate; Associate degree in music (distinction).
Occupation: educator, musician, singer.
If I picked up a book written by Derek Marshall and turn to the back to read the short summary on the author, what would it say?
It would probably say I’m an easygoing yet serious guy who loves a laugh, music, sports and the outdoors. Real simple!
Which four words best describe you?
Fun-loving but serious. Oxymoronic, I know; but that’s me.
What drives you and keeps you motivated?
I love the stuff I do; so motivation comes from wanting to improve daily, and see those ventures reach their fullest potential.
You have been a teacher since 1997. While at school was it always your intention to pursue teaching as a career? And why did you choose primary school over secondary to teach at?
When I was at school, I wanted to be an accountant first, teacher second and a journalist third. Unfortunately, mathematics and I were always in a disagreement (which maths usually won); so I was forced to give up on that accountant dream fairly quickly.
When I left school, I started teaching; so I haven’t got to journalism yet.
What was the experience like when you first entered the teaching profession at the primary school level? Was it a culture shock?
It was a bit of a culture shock. I think every young teacher goes in thinking their students are ready and waiting to learn and they are going to make an immediate impact. But that is far from the case. There are so many environmental, behavioural and societal challenges that make the job more difficult than anyone could imagine.
For example, on my first assignment, one of my students jumped on my shoulders and tried to put me in a headlock. That was in 1997.
Thankfully, I haven’t had anything near that since; but I hear the stories of what others go through today. So, I thank God I’ve managed to stay out of that kind of thing.
You have a degree in music and are known as a singer; yet you teach PE. How come? Why not music?
There’s already a music teacher at my school; so I just filled in where I was needed. But I love sports; so it’s no problem for me. Plus, I can use the exercise!
Technology has positively and negatively influenced society as a whole. As a PE teacher, how important it is for children to have outdoor play at home, and what are some of the benefits?
Outdoor play is essential to a child; not only from a physical standpoint, in terms of cardiovascular; but also from a social standpoint with the honing of problem-solving and social life skills.
If you had to choose an animal to best represent you, which would it be, and why?
Probably a wolf, because I can run on my own or with the pack.
If you were to create and be a superhero, what would your name be, and what powers would you have?
I’ve always wanted to have teleportation powers –– like the guy in the movie Jumper. Not sure I’d call myself Jumper, though. Probably something simple like The Marshall, or Gemini.
If you were given $1 million and could not use it in any way to benefit you or your immediate family, what would you do
I would donate it to the music programme at BCC. I’m sure Mr Gittens wouldn’t refuse it.
You are the founder and musical director of the well-known NIFCA Award-winning all-male vocal group G-Syndicate. Why did you decide to start such a group? How did you go about choosing the members, what does the name stand for and who makes up G-Syndicate?
I was a choir boy at St Mary’s Church; so I was always involved with and loved singing. While studying at Erdiston Teachers’ Training College, a friend of mine introduced me to his vocal group Share, and an international group called Take 6.
I was blown away and decided I needed to do something similar; so I started my own group at church with other guys who were in the choir at that time. Over the years, the membership has changed for various reasons; and now only two original members (Taurean Knight and myself) remain.
Originally, we were a gospel group so the “G” in G-Syndicate stands for “God”; and, even though we don’t do gospel these days, it still serves as a reminder of where our talent comes from and why we do what we do.
G-Syndicate is Derek Marshall, first tenor; Khiomal, first tenor; Taurean Knight, second tenor; Brett Linton, second tenor; Marc Sealey, baritone; and Antonio Edwards, bass.
G-Syndicate has performed many places. Which of your many performances would you say was the one that confirmed you guys indeed had something to offer the world? And which performance to date was the most memorable?
I would have to say it was a succession of performances for me between Christmas With G-Syndicate 2014 and Christmas With G-Syndicate 2015 (look out for Christmas With G-Syndicate 2016 #shamelessplug).
Over that year, we found our sound; and our performances have improved every time we hit the stage. In terms of most memorable, today I’m going to go with Holders Season 2015. Ask me another day, and you may get another choice; but the atmosphere around that show was professional: from the soundcheck to the end of our performance –– even though one of the technical crew left his bag onstage and it was there during our performance! Great show nonetheless!
I have watched videos of G-Syndicate touring schools, and children exploding with excitement as you sing. Is it experiences like these that keep you guys going?
We love when we can get people going with what we do, especially when they don’t know what to expect. There’s a mindset that a cappella music is boring; so we always relish the opportunity to change that thinking.
We did a “school tour” last year and we were very well received, and it’s the kind of experience that keeps you going even when the frustrations set in.
Christmas With G-Syndicate 2014 was a big achievement for us. It was our own show out of our own pocket, and it gave us the confidence to know we could do something of note. It was a nice springboard for 2015 where we did Holetown Festival, then Holders Season to awesome reviews.
We’re also set to do our own show called Get Syndicated: A Vocal Encounter on June 4 at Marina Bar & Restaurant. It’s going to be our first full show outside of Christmas in about six years. So if we can get that done to our liking that would be truly awesome for us.
You have done spouge, ballads, R&B and other genre arrangements in your repertoire. Have you ever considered soca? Maybe, G-Syndicate has something up its sleeve for Crop Over 2016?
Nothing in the pipeline for Crop Over 2016. Oddly enough, people seem to be asking for a soca contribution more and more recently; and while the guys have sung backing vocals on other artistes’ projects, and we use soca within the songs we do, there has never been a real serious consideration to do a soca track. That’s never been our focus. Who knows what the future holds, though? Maybe next year we may see G-Syndicate in the bashment soca competition doing a collaboration with Stiffy.
My manager won’t like that comment at all!
Is G-Syndicate the only group you have sung with, or currently sing with?
Nah, man! I am currently the musical director of both G-Syndicate and my own choir (an awesome group that everybody should come and see #shamelessplug), The Clarion Singers. But through the years I’ve sung with the Goodwill Singers, Laudamus Chamber Choir, Cavite Chorale and the Myriad Singers. A lot of group work . . . ; must’ve been lonely!
You have been a judge at various competitions. Would you share with us which ones?
I’ve been a judge for pageants, folk, calypso and talent competitions at Parkinson, Alexandra, Coleridge & Parry, Lester Vaughan and Frederick Smith secondary schools. At the national level, I have judged NIFCA, Party Monarch and Pic-O-De-Crop.
Tell us about your involvement with renowned trumpeter and jazz legend Marcus Belgrave and his Detroit Jazz Workshop.
Marcus was doing a workshop here with the music students at BCC, and then he was doing a show at the UWI Cave Hill Campus. His wife Joan heard me singing and asked me to join some other vocalists to perform It Don’t Mean A Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing). After he heard me there he asked me to do a solo piece called Senor Blues with the DJW.
I thought we were just jamming some tunes in the performing hall. It was only after they took my number and started talking about rehearsals at UWI that I realized I had been drafted to do a show! The professionalism with which the band approached their craft was inspiring and a bit intimidating, but they all made me comfortable.
So I went and did my thing, and I had a blast.
Has your singing taken you outside Barbados, and, if yes, where and with which group?
Yes. I’ve been to Florida, Toronto and Montreal with the Goodwill Singers, and to Grenada and Trinidad with the Cavite Chorale.
What is one thing people might find interesting about you?
I would have to say it’s the fact that I’m not as “aloof and unapproachable” as I apparently look. It seems I look intimidating; but those who venture close and get to know me realize I’m pretty easy, once they know when a joke stops being funny.
Who has contributed to your success?
A whole set of people have contributed to my being where I am. Those include but aren’t limited to my family, Mr Gittens and my tutors at BCC, my fellow musicians from the BCC family, my boys in G-Syndicate, the Clarion Singers family and my principal Jennifer Hoyte –– and, most recently, my manager Celeste Marshall.
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