Alpha Boys School

Alpha Cottage School (often referred to as Alpha Boys School, Convent of Mercy "Alpha" Academy and now called Alpha Institute) was the name of the vocational residential school on South Camp Road in Kingston, Jamaica, still run by Roman Catholic nuns. Established in 1880 as a "school for wayward boys", it became renowned for both the discipline it instilled in its pupils and the outstanding musical tuition they received.[1][2] In 2014 Alpha's residence closed and the school continued as Alpha Institute to focus on educational and vocational training for inner city unattached youth.[3]

Alpha Boys School
Alpha Boys School Emblem.png
26 South Camp Road

Coordinates17°58′37″N 76°46′53″W / 17.9770187°N 76.7813712°W / 17.9770187; -76.7813712Coordinates: 17°58′37″N 76°46′53″W / 17.9770187°N 76.7813712°W / 17.9770187; -76.7813712
MottoUpward and Onward
Religious affiliation(s)Christian
DenominationRoman Catholic

School bandEdit

The school band was formed in 1892. It was originally a drum and fife corps, and later a brass band, following the gift of brass instruments from the Roman Catholic Bishop of Jamaica.[1][4] The school has been credited with influencing the development of ska and reggae.[5] Its music instructors have included Lennie Hibbert, Ruben Delgado and Sparrow Martin.

Sister Mary Ignatius Davies, an alumnus of the Alpha Academy next door, is recognized as a factor in the strength of Alpha's program and that of Jamaican music more broadly.[6] Sister Ignatius did not teach music or know how to play an instrument. Sister Ignatius owned a sound system called Mutt And Jeff Sound.

The Alpha Alumni Ensemble is composed of former students of the school who are now professional musicians.[7]

Alpha self help programsEdit

The school has a long history with trying to be self-sufficient. Older trades such as tile making, tailoring and farming had a direct impact on sustaining the school, were part of the vocational culture of the school and opportunities to work.[8] Self-help now includes wood working, screen printing, digital print services and music performance.[9]

In April 2013, Alpha Boys School launched a new clothing project to support the school with two tee shirt designs by Michael Thompson (aka Freestylee: Artist Without Borders) and equipment provided by Digicel Jamaica.[10] Alpha's tee shirts include designs for the Jamaica Sound System Federation & Active fashion India.

Notable alumniEdit

Notable alumni, all musicians, include:

Alpha Boys School RadioEdit

Alpha Boys' School Radio [15] is a 24/7 online radio station ( and celebration of the legacy established by the Kingston, Jamaica-based school responsible for the education and musical development of Jamaica's premiere jazz, ska, reggae and dancehall pioneers. Featuring music performed by Alpha's alumni, including jazz stalwarts of the 1950s and 1960s like Joe Harriott and Dizzy Reece, ska pioneers the Skatalites, Cedric 'Im' Brooks and Rico Rodriguez; rocksteady innovator Vin Gordon; reggae icons Leroy Smart and Leroy 'Horsemouth' Wallace; and the original King of the Dancehall, Winston 'Yellowman' Foster; Alpha Boys' School Radio is a 24/7 connection to the beat of Jamaican music.[16] Every February, Alpha Boys School Radio hosts the Reggae Auction to benefit social services for Alpha students.[17]


In November, 2017, authors Heather Augustyn and Adam Reeves published their comprehensive book, Alpha Boys' School: Cradle of Jamaican Music, from Half Pint Press. The book chronicles over 40 musicians who attended Alpha Boys' School and contains exclusive interviews and photographs from many of the musicians.

See alsoEdit

  • List of schools in Jamaica


  1. ^ a b c Barrow, Steve and Dalton, Peter: "Reggae: The Rough Guide", Rough Guides, 1997, ISBN 1-85828-247-0
  2. ^ The New Grove Dictionary of Jazz (2nd ed.), Barry Dean Kernfeld, PhD (born 1950) (ed.), "Alpha Cottage School," by Val Wilmer (subject article in Vol. 1 of 3), Macmillan Publishers (2002); ISBN 9781561592630

    External linksEdit

    OCLC 863518000 (retrieved 27 August 2017, via Grove Music Online)
  3. ^ "The Alpha Institute ... Providing a solid foundation for young boys". Retrieved 5 November 2017.
  4. ^ History of Alpha Boys' School Archived 2007-10-01 at the Wayback Machine
  5. ^ a b Nun who nurtured reggae The Daily Telegraph, 12/01/2006
  6. ^ Katz, David (15 February 2003). "Obituary: Sister Mary Ignatius Davies". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 5 November 2017.
  7. ^ Limited, Jamaica Observer. "Alpha raises over $1m for young men at institution". Jamaica Observer. Retrieved 5 November 2017.
  9. ^ "Alpha Boys' products attract manufacturers". Retrieved 5 November 2017.
  10. ^ Serwer, Jesse. "Fashion Fridays: Alpha Boys School, The Birthplace Of Ska, Gets Its Own Tshirts". Retrieved 21 September 2013.
  11. ^ Steve Barker on Headley Bennett's only solo album to date
  12. ^ a b Jamaica Observer - Jazz: What's Jamaica Got To Do With It? Archived 2007-01-12 at the Wayback Machine
  13. ^ The Skatalites Biography[permanent dead link]
  14. ^ Liner notes from the Impressions of Leroy Smart CD
  15. ^
  16. ^ Serwer, Jesse. "Large Up Recommends: Alpha Boys School Radio". Okay Player. Retrieved 21 September 2013.
  17. ^ "reggaeauction". Alpha Boys School Radio: Your #1 Musical Passport to Jamaica!. Retrieved 21 February 2018.