Thomas Alexis, music pioneer, founder of Seychelles' School of Music, is laid to rest

Obituaries |Author: Sharon Ernesta | June 28, 2024, Friday @ 16:40| 4523 views

Alexis and his wife Elvira at his 80th birthday celebration. (Alexis Family)

(Seychelles News Agency) - Thomas Alexis, credited with his many contributions as a musician, music instructor, and founder of the island nation's School of Music, was laid to rest on Friday.

Alexis, who was 80, passed away last weekend. His funeral service was held at the St Francis Assis Catholic Church in the southern district of Baie Lazare on the main island of Mahe.

"Mr Alexis was a Seychellois musical icon who has made immense contributions to the Seychelles' music industry. He was not only a composer musician but in his professional career at the School of Music, as an instructor and head of the music programme, where he passed on his musical knowledge and undoubtedly touched many lives," said Wavel Ramkalawan, the President of Seychelles in a message of condolences.

 "His legacy lives on as we remember him through the many songs he graced our nation with. He will be fondly remembered, and songs like 'Manman Mon manman' will forever be part of his legacy and our culture. May his soul rest in peace," added Ramkalawan.

The President said, "On behalf of the country and on my personal behalf, we conveyed our warmest thoughts of strength and courage during this time of bereavement to the wife, family, and friends of Mr Thomas Alexis."

Born in November 1943, Alexis was the second child in his family. He spent his childhood in the district of Cascade before moving to Baie Lazare, where he resided until his death.

As a child, Alexis was curious and creative, something that stayed with him through adulthood. Alexis's younger sister Antoinette recounted to SNA on Thursday how when he was around 19, Alexis, who was already working, saved money and bought a radio - a rare and luxury item back then - only to take it apart to find out how it worked. Young Alexis never managed to put the radio back together. According to his sister, this was the only radio their small community had at that time. 

Alexis (left) with former fellow music instructor Jerry Souris. (Alexis Family) Photo License: All Rights Reserved  

In 1962, Alexis joined the then Seychelles Teachers Training College, the start of a long journey as a teacher and instructor. But his career in the teaching sector began in 1961, at 18 years old, as a supply teacher at the Cascade School. It was around this time that the young Alexis assumed the role of father to his younger sibling and the sole breadwinner for the family. Assuming this role so early in life surely contributed to why, later in life, Alexis was and remained a pillar in his own family. 

His love of music lured him into the teaching of music, and it was in 1976, when the formal teaching of music started that Jerry Souris – fellow music instructor - met Alexis. Back then Alexis was a teacher and Souris a student taking music lessons and aspiring to become a music instructor. A talented Alexis who played the recorder, flute, guitar, and violin remained committed to music education and remained in the field for around 30 years.

Alexis, along with a small group, including Souris, who was passionate about advancing music education, founded the School of Music of the National Conservatoire of Performing Arts, based at Mont Fleuri, on Mahe, the main island of the Seychelles archipelago in the western Indian Ocean. Initially, the School of Music was located at La Bastille but moved to its present location in 1990.

"Together, we made the school have a presence in the Seychelles. We then started to formally give trainings to teachers through an arrangement with the Ministry of Education where during the school holidays they would come for training at the School of Music, many of the them are still music instructors," Souris told SNA.

Souris, whose specialty is playing the trombone and double bass violin, recounted that another big achievement he and Alexis shared was the work done with the National Brass Brand when it was transferred to the school from the Seychelles Police in the 1980s.

One of Alexis' achievements was the work done with the National Brass Brand. (Alexis Family)  Photo License: All Rights Reserved  

Souris, who developed a strong friendship with Alexis as a work colleague and music collaborator for 40 years, says that what will stay with him is Alexis' strong commitment and devotion to his family as well as his passion for advancing music education, especially to the younger generation.

"His dedication to nurturing children and developing their talents. I know him as a strong family man, he was all for his family and dedicated to his family. We were always together, working together, and we shared many musical exchanges," said Souris, who spent 37 years as an instructor at the School of Music.

As a musician Alexis was a promoter of the traditions of the island nation and produced two albums. His most popular song is "Manman, Mon Manman" in which he expresses his praises and deep love for his mother.  Sir Thomas – as Alexis was known and affectionately referred to especially in his community at Baie Lazare - made such an important contribution to Seychelles' cultural history that his memories and work in music education will be remembered by many. And his song praising his love for his mother will remain a signature tune on the local radio especially on Mother's Day.

Alexis is survived by his wife - Elvira, six children and grandchildren.


Tags: School of Music, St Francis Assis Catholic Church

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