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Mike Duncan – cultural ambassador

By Victor Laptiste

It is difficult to find words to adequately describe this gifted and dedicated teacher of the Arts who has devoted his life for the upliftment of all forms of cultural expression. Michael Anthony Garth Duncan grew up in the village of Mt Pleasant and began singing at church functions and in concerts at primary school.
He served faithfully as an Acolyte from age ten and was the founder of the St Patrick’s Anglican Youth Movement which introduced dramatic arts into the church programme. As a twelve-year old student at Bishops High School he joined the group ‘The Minstrels’ and began performing at public shows.
He soon learned to play the guitar then subsequently took piano lessons and was successful in the Trinity School of Music Examinations.
Equipped with a greater understanding of music, he began to create his own compositions, then became a member of the group ‘Telstars’ which was most popular in the seventies.
His passion for music and the Arts coupled with his love for teaching led him to Mausica Teachers Training College where for two consecutive years he reigned as the Calypso King with the sobriquet ‘Sweet Mike’; he was also the First Tenor in the College’s Quartet which won the Best Male Quartet in the Music Festival Championships.
In 1973 he won the Tobago Road March with his composition ‘Mas in Scarborough’. The highlight of his singing career was when he copped the first prize in the ‘Scouting for Talent’ Competition which was aired on television.
This very familiar personality with his folk guitar encased and slung over his shoulder is a giant on our cultural landscape.
He can be described as one of our greatest cultural ambassadors; he said: ‘my guitar got me everywhere I went’. In 1982 he was Co-founder, Musical Director and Accompanist of Signal Hill Senior Comprehensive School Folk Choir.
In 1983 he was one of the founding members of the Signal Hill Alumni Choir and was its Musical Director until 1992, leading them to National Championships in the Music Festival from 1984 to 1990 and on tours to Barbados, Grenada and Venezuela. He is also the co-founder, President and Musical Director of the Youth Quake Choir which was the Champion Gospel Choir at the 1997 Music Festival and is well known for its stellar performances in music, dance and drama.
Duncan has conducted several workshops for children in folk music and prepared them for participation in the National Junior Best Village; he was also the producer of the Junior Heritage Explosion.
His passion for the Arts led him to train several other schools to the pinnacle in the National Biennial Music Festival such as Buccoo Government (1974), Scarborough Methodist (1976) and Scarborough Junior Secondary (1990 – 2002).
In 2007 he was the Arranger for the Choir (16 – 19 years) which won the Champion Trophy in the World Championships in the Performing Arts, Hollywood, USA in Folk and World Music. Mike is a permanent fixture on the local entertainment circuit as a member of the ‘Pleasure Pirates’ – a trio of accomplished entertainers who thrill their audiences with vintage renditions at hotels and other popular resorts.
As a dramatist he was the lead actor in several productions, fine-tuning his skills in Speech and Articulation through his mentor – Cynthia Alfred and Dramatist – Bernadette ‘Pinky’ Allum.
His most notable television appearance was in the movie ‘Turn of the Tide’ – a thirteen-episode series which was filmed in 1984. His teaching career was not limited to the classroom as Class Teacher at Montgomery Government, Hope Anglican and also at the Bon Accord Post Primary Centre where he taught Social Studies and Music.
He prepared himself for service by completing the Coaching Young Cricketers Course and coached the school’s cricket team and other young cricketers.
He also assisted the Coach in the training and management of the football teams and athletes for their respective competitions; the Montgomery School won the National Championships in both Cricket and Football.
He has received several Awards throughout his long distinguished career; in 1989 he was honoured for his contribution to the development of Carnival in Tobago. He was Chairman of the Tobago CDC Calypso Committee from 1986 to 1992 when many young calypsonians made their debut.
From 1992 to 1996 he chaired the Tobago Carnival Development Committee and also Junior Heritage Committee; one of his innovations was the introduction of the first Junior Calypso Tent in Trinidad & Tobago.
In 1997 he was voted the Best Director of Folk Concerts in the Prime Minister’s Best Village Competition. As a Youth Leader he received the Youth Excellence Award from the Tobago House of Assembly in 2004.
He has served as a Talent Scout for the Twelve and Under TV Show for ten years and Chief Judge for the Library Verse Speaking Competition for seven years. Mike, with his vast knowledge and experience, is a role model for youths aspiring to a career in the profession of the Arts and Culture.
He is a disciplinarian with strong leadership qualities and well loved by the young people whose lives he has touched.
As a singer, instrumentalist, composer, arranger, actor, producer, tutor, administrator and lover of the Arts he is outstandingly unique.

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Classmates - now Canadian said on Monday, Apr 23 at 3:07 PM

As I read of all your accomplishments I am very proud of you to have known you, and blessed to know that we were once classmates back in Mt.Pleasant school. As I kept reading the article I am thinking is this the Mike I knew? CONGRATULATIONS on all you have accomplished. way to go BRO..

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Annabelle-Toronto said on Wednesday, Mar 14 at 3:22 PM

Congrats Mike, you are one very talented gentleman. So proud to call you cousin. All the best.

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RJ said on Tuesday, Mar 13 at 9:31 AM

Congratulations Mike. You can be the one to start an international gospel festival instead of a second carnival in Tobago

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Nichole Jack said on Saturday, Mar 10 at 3:22 PM

You are so deserving of this recognition Mike. You were an inspiration to many of us on Signal Hill Choir.

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Sugar Fingers said on Friday, Mar 9 at 11:27 AM

Hey Mike all the best to you a man of many talents, keep up the great work. Hey how about strating guitar lessons for the youths?

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yninwashingtondc said on Friday, Mar 9 at 1:34 AM

I've had the pleasure of being part of his folklore days back in Montgomery Gov't school. Who can forget those good times. Mike you truly deserve this recognition.

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Sister said on Wednesday, Mar 7 at 11:00 PM

It is about time Mike is recognized for his contribution in the development of Arts and Culture in Tobago. He has devoted so much of his time in this area. Lets BIG UP this BROTHER!!!!!!

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Mahalia Prescod said on Wednesday, Mar 7 at 3:21 PM

Mike you are the Man...Tobago is lucky to have you,your talent,love and gift. Many have learnt from you and look up to you. I enjoyed listening to you play the guitar. I,m lucky and proud to have you as my cousin.

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Rachael Charles said on Tuesday, Mar 6 at 10:57 PM

As a past member of the Alumni Choir..it was always a pleasure singing along side with him strumming his guitar..when he and Cheryl left...SHAC lost their unique sense of style..I am so proud to have been a part of something that he created...well done Mike..you are finally getting the recognition you deserve!!

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Debra Webster said on Tuesday, Mar 6 at 8:11 PM

It was great working with Mike and The Drama People. He is always funny, keeping us entertained while practicing for many hours. Congrats to Mike and all the best in future endeavours.

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From Canada said on Tuesday, Mar 6 at 12:22 PM

Congratulations to you Michael. Tobago need more people like you. My cousin was member of the Signal Hill choir. Please give this man what is due to him. If he had done something bad, there would be enough space to redicule him. Best wishes my fellow Tobagonian

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william prescod said on Monday, Mar 5 at 11:58 PM

bravo mike this honor is long overdue.

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DE EMPRESS said on Monday, Mar 5 at 11:15 AM

IMAGINE NO COMMENTS WOW U TOBAGONIANS ARE SO UNGRATEFUL, THIS IS A MAN WHO HAVE DOE SO MUCH FOR TOBAGONIANS ,HE IS THE PERSON WHPO STARTED THE SIGNAL HILL ALUMNI CHOIR.

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