NIU Loses a Music Legend


One of the things we often take for granted living around a university like NIU are the number of amazingly talented people, from literally from all over the world, whose genius we get to see up close. The community lost one such person this past week, when DeKalb Resident Clifford Alexis passed away Tuesday, January 29 at Kishwaukee Hospital at the age of 82.

Mr. Alexis was a music legend who was called “the Stradivarius of the steelpan,” by a colleague. He was a native of Trinidad & Tobago and performed all over the world with the National Steelband of Trinidad and Tobago, before immigrating to the United States in 1965. In 1985, he joined the staff of the School of Music at Northern Illinois University, where his responsibilities included maintaining and upgrading the school’s large inventory of steelpans, arranging, composing, and co-directing the world-renowned NIU Steelband.

Alexis received numerous awards and recognitions during his career. He was inducted into the Percussive Arts Society Hall of Fame and the Sunshine Awards Hall of Fame with a Lifetime Achievement Award.  In 2011, he was featured in the PBS film, “Hammer on Steel,” for which he earned two Emmy nominations. In 2017, Alexis was bestowed an Honorary Doctorate Degree from NIU. Finally, just a few months ago in 2018, he was given the Chaconia Medal, the highest award in Trinidad & Tobago for distinguished and outstanding service.

On Thursday, Trinidad & Tobago’s Newsday published a collection of tributes to Alexis.

The Memorial Visitation for Clifford Alexis will be held on Tuesday, February 5, 2019 from 4:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. with a service at 7:00 p.m. at Anderson Funeral Home in DeKalb (2011 S Fourth St). Mr. Alexis is survived by his wife, Yuko Asada, and six children.

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