Outstanding Service Award

Cliff Alexis

Co-director, NIU Steel Band, School of Music

Neither time nor temperature can keep Cliff Alexis from his appointed rounds as a master builder and tuner of steelpans – especially if the NIU Steel Band can avoid steep shipping costs.

"Such dedication can be seen when he often spends 10- to 15-hour long days tuning the NIU Steel Band's instruments in an impeccable fashion before many of its concerts off and on campus," said Liam Teague, co-director of the band. "He has gone so far as to build instruments in the sweltering heat of Trinidad."

Employed at NIU since 1986, Alexis is equally regarded for his performance, teaching, composing and arranging skills on the instrument of his homeland, the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago.

He has appeared with several university ensembles and played and presented at Elgin Community College, the Birch Creek Music Center, the Singapore Festival of the Arts and the National Institute of the Arts in Taiwan.

His composition "Pan 2000" helped NIU earn second place at the 2000 World Steelband Festival.

Alexis won the Trinidad and Tobago Folk Arts Institute Award for his contribution to the development and education of the steelpan in the United States. Pan Trinbago (the governing body of steelpan) and the government of Trinidad and Tobago bestowed similar recognition for expanding the pan's global reach.

He's a member of the Sunshine Hall of Fame and has a lifetime achievement award from the World Steelband Festival. He also was one of the first members of the National Steel Orchestra of Trinidad and Tobago in 1964.

"He is nothing short of a wizard," colleague Greg Beyer said, "and something of a genius."

Cliff Alexis