Dale Haslam was out of school for 25 years.
During that time, he was busy touring the world with top-notch entertainers such as Jimmy Cliff, Richie Spice, Mutabaruka, Etana, Luciano, Freddie McGregor, Ernest Ranglin, Barington Levy, Carlene Davis, Junior Tucker, and Papa San.
But the 47-year-old bass guitarist and keyboard player sensed that something was missing.
“I had the practical [aspect of music] covered, but the theoretical and educational aspect was very lacking in my life – very bad,” he explained. “I couldn’t speak properly; I couldn’t write; only music I could play… I knew something was missing; I felt it in my heart.”
Haslam went in search of the missing piece – academic qualification.
He attended private classes, including those held in the evenings at Ocho Rios High School in St. Ann.
Using his decades of musical experience, he later enrolled at Edna Manley School of Music, which is part of Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts.
“When I heard about the experience programme at Edna Manley, I wasted no time,” Haslam noted, adding that he was among the eldest persons in his batch.
“It felt strange at first. But, in year three, I really found the benefits of being around the younger generation, because they were the ones who really pushed me. I had to keep up with their level of education.”
Haslam, who spent five years at the college because he initially was studying part-time, said his challenges included the expenses that were being incurred during his educational pursuit.
He defied all odds and graduated this month with a Bachelor’s degree in Music Education.
Haslam also copped six awards, including The Chairman’s Award, The Dean’s Award, and the Principal’s Award.
Delivering the valedictory address at a virtual graduation ceremony, he told the audience: “When I came here, I couldn’t write a sentence, but I always try to follow the good company and they are the ones who bring me here today educationally.
“I can talk big in English now; I can write any research right now – which I couldn’t do when I just came to Edna Manley. I never stopped there; my goal was to finish this journey,” added the musician, who was born in Kingston.
He also told the audience about his life growing up in the rural community of Devon, otherwise called Train Line, in the Nine Miles area of St. Ann.
“My journey started as a little boy who came from nothing – no light; no water. I used to travel to school with one book, a pencil, and no shoes,” Haslam said.
He attended Lime Tree Garden All Age School, Bethany Primary, and Brown’s Town High.
He discovered his passion for music when he was about age 15, and ended up being musically active at the Upper Room Church of God in his community.
A few years later, Haslam started playing music in hotels while enhancing his craft.
“With the assistance of other musicians, I was able to transcend to a higher level where I got the chance to network with some of Jamaica’s best musicians,” he said.
His skill, eccentricity and humility charmed the legendary guitarist Earnest Ranglin. Ranglin took the then young musician under his wings, teaching him much about expression, art and life.
He also ended up under the tutelage of Maurice Gordon, who introduced him to the more formal side of music.
Haslam, in 1998, joined the Skool Band headed by renowned Jamaican drummer Desi Jones.
In 2003, he began touring internationally with Reggae icon Jimmy Cliff.
He travelled all over the world – performing with different artistes in Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Caribbean.
Haslam eventually founded HazzieMuzik Productions and is now a music producer and recording artiste.
He noted that, with the new competencies he acquired at Edna Manley, his teaching abilities have been strengthened.
He encouraged young musicians to keep hope alive despite their challenges.
“Don’t look at the end and seh yuh wont reach; take it a step at a time,” he said. “Nothing comes easy.”
Haslam said his outlook about school and other areas of life changed significantly after he, at one point, listened to a speech delivered by renowned writer Dr. Amina Blackwood-Meeks.
He said Dr. Blackwood-Meeks likened life to a man pushing an iron ball up a hill.
“She made it clear that it is OK for the man to rest, but, if he gives up, that big iron ball will run him over,” Haslam said. “That goes to show that, no matter what challenges we face in life, it is OK to take a break, but we must never give up the fight.”
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