“I cannot see myself doing anything else since I am living my dream which has always been to try to provide music programs so that Guyana’s children can have an opportunity to know the joys of music as I did.”
Hearing the melodious sound of piano music wafting from her Charlotte Street, Bourda home is now a regular feature for neighbours.
The sound is not always smooth and uninterrupted but at times halting.
It is the sound of students, young and old, trying to perfect the art form expertly taught by the legendary local pianist Marilyn Dewar.
She is one of, if not the most sought after music teacher in Guyana, and her musical abilities are practically boundless.
An accomplished pianist from the age of three, Marilyn Dewar also plays the cello, organ, violin, recorder, and sings as well.
She is an accompaniment with the renowned Woodside Choir and Secretary of the Music Teachers’ Association of Guyana for the last twenty years. She is also one of the founding members of the Broadcast to Schools programme.
Teaching students to play the piano has been her major focus for the last thirty years and while it is done primarily out of love for the music genre, she is also on a mission to revitalize what she sees as “the waning of music in Guyana”
It was natural that Marilyn would love music since she was born into a musical environment and grew up to the sound of music.
Her mother and grandmother were also music teachers.
“My grandmother taught my mother and she eventually taught me and from a young age there was always music in our house because my mother offered music lessons so I learned an early appreciation for music.”
Laughingly she noted that even though her father was a carpenter he was often lured into the musical activities that went on in the home and eventually began singing.
At the tender age of three she jumped on one of the pianos around the house and began experimenting with the keys.
Even then her talent in this regard was obvious, prompting her mother Janet to take the young Marilyn in hand, honing her skill at the piano.
By age eleven she had moved on to the violin with Mr. Francis Percival Loncke, writer of the National Song “My Guyana Eldorado.”
Wanting to accomplish more, she then learned to play the cello under the watchful eyes of Mr. John Bumbury.
Soon she was one of the youngest members of the National Symphony and Princesville Orchestras and was playing her violin at events all over the country.
Recognizing her exceptional musical abilities, her mother encouraged her to begin playing the organ when she was about 12 years old .
This saw her going to the Trinity Methodist Church to learn from the esteemed Winslow Smith.
A short time later, organist of Christ Church where Marilyn attend, Chapman Edwards died and she was granted a scholarship in his name to play the organ at the church and further her studies in this area.
By her mid teens she was the Deputy Organist at the church and playing at all the services.
Marilyn attended the Fountain AME Primary in New Garden Street and St Cambridge Academy on South Road, and while she was an average student and attained fairly good grades, her passion was always music.
This prompted her to write and excel in the highest grades of music through the Royal School and Trinity Music College.
On attaining her certificate from the Teachers’ Training College she taught music at Queen’s College, Bishops’ High and Charlestown.
She was then seconded to work with the Broadcast to Schools Programme where she single handedly coordinated and conducted the programme for close to ten years.
While there she was awarded a British Council scholarship to the BBC which afforded her an opportunity to work at Tavistock House in London.
Recalling this tenure, she noted that it showcased Guyanese’ prowess at multi-tasking.
“I went to London to do programming… In Guyana I had to do everything for the programme and when I got there they said “You’re going to be involved in the radio production programme but only the aspect of preparing the script … I said what about doing the music breaks and they explained that they have a person for everything. Amazed, they gave me an opportunity to show them how I multi-tasked back home and they were truly amazed.”
In 1973, while still with the Broadcast to Schools programme she met her husband David to whom she has been married for the last 36 years.
Recalling their meeting she reminisced from her Charlotte Street, Bourda home which she still shares with him, that it was not definitely love at first sight.
David had come to the Christ Church congregation where she had been a member for years to join the Choral Society. He was elected Assistant Secretary while she was Secretary of the Society but according to Marilyn, he never attended a single meeting or practice session.
However one year later he turned up to sing at the first anniversary of the society and she was asked to accompany him on the piano. She bluntly and vehemently refused.
“I was stuck doing all the work for an entire year with no assistance from him and then he just turns up without an apology to sing and I am expected to accompany him. There was no way I was doing that,” Marilyn said.
Luckily his mother saved the day by accompanying him.
Coyly she explained that David “continued to buzz around” her and eventually the couple tied the knot.
Like her, David came from a musical family, where his mother was also a music teacher and despite the initial misunderstandings, an underlying unity of focus and passion existed between the couple.
This they believe is a major factor for their long and happy marriage. David has another reason. He says that their successful union lies with him always acknowledging that his wife is “always right”
They have two sons and a daughter, all of whom are also versed in playing a number of musical instruments even though it is not their major forte.
The youngest son Vaughn in his apparent bid to carry on the musical torch in the family tree recently got married to someone who is also in the music profession. His wife is Lillian Williams who sings, plays the keyboards and until recently was the conductor for the Marigold choir. He himself plays the piano, guitar and sings.
Their daughter Davleyn, a doctor in Jamaica plays a mean piano, steel pan as well as the recorder.
Aubrey, the eldest son, who is an engineer with Guyana Power and Light Company, plays the piano, is a base recorder player and a professional singer.
Pointing out that having a firm academic base is important in any field, Marilyn is the holder of a Bachelors degree in English from the University of Guyana and a Masters in International Education.
In 1989 upon her mother’s migration to the USA, her students were left somewhat stranded.
“My mom asked me to take her students and I did and then things just grew from strength to strength”
Today her services as a music teacher are widely sought after and she lamented the fact that she has to regularly turn students away since it is ‘just too much.’ Thousands of prestigious persons have passed through her hands, a few of whom now assist her at teaching.
As it stands she works six days per week until very late into the evenings sometimes. She is still the organist at her church and also plays at special functions.
Her husband since his retirement as head of the Guyana Sewage and Water Commissioners (GS&WC) says he now has the time to play his instruments which includes the guitar, piano and recorder.
A renowned singer who has represented Guyana on numerous occasions, the impacting powerful baritone voice of David Dewar is now a regular feature on the airwaves each morning belting out national songs. He is also lone male of the Woodside Choir
He also assists his wife in teaching and noted that “Music has always been food for the soul for me and I am now getting an opportunity to really feed my soul.”
Marilyn lamented the fact there are hardly any music teachers around Guyana now.
“All have either migrated or gone into other paths. Back when I was young, any instrument you wanted to play you could find a teacher for, not so now. Most of our young people who are accomplished players have sadly gone into other fields because music in Guyana is not considered a lucrative venture.”
Marilyn noted the need for music to return to the curriculum of public schools so that children can have an appreciation of proper music even as she lamented that “all that these young people have now is a lot of loud boom boom music to listen to. Many times when children come here to me they cannot even follow a melody line because they don’t know how.”
She however noted that for music to reach the school level it has to first be taught at the Cyril Potter College of Education .
“We in the music arena are becoming less and less and by teaching these children it is my way of keeping it alive and passing the torch and it is my hope that they in turn will take up the mantle and then pass it on.”
As another way of keeping music alive, Marilyn has been instrumental in resuscitating the Guyana Music Festival this April which has not been held since 1997.
The festival which began in 1952 allows musicians of all genres to showcase their talent by competing in a number of areas.
Marilyn describes her life as “extremely satisfying’ noting that music has always been therapy for her.
Almost 61, she noted, “I cannot see myself doing anything else since I am living my dream which has always been to try to provide music programs so that Guyana’s children can have an opportunity to know the joys of music as I did.”
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