Congratulations to music education alum Akini A. Gill ( M.A. 2014) who has published his first book, From Behind the Bridge to the Impossible Dream, which chronicles his journey of “determination, discipline, faith, and hope” despite societal barriers. In this inspirational book, Gill discusses how he was able to overcome dyslexia and dyspraxia to become a music teacher.
Growing up in Port-of-Spain in Trinidad and Tobago, Gill faced hardship in school due to his learning disabilities of dyslexia, a developmental reading disorder, and dyspraxia, a motor learning disability. Some of his teachers did not understand his challenges and did not support him throughout his educational journey. Thankfully, Gill’s mother, Elizabeth Ann St. Clair, never stopped believing in him and helped him graduate not only from primary and secondary school, but also from college at the University of the West Indies and then from our master’s program in Music Education. While he was a student here, Gill participated in NYU Steel, an ensemble dedicated to steel drums.
Gill’s master’s thesis, “Teaching Music to Children with Learning Disabilities in Trinidad and Tobago” was completed under the guidance of program director Dr. Elise Sobol. “New York University itself prepared me to become a professional at a higher education level. There, I was made to feel welcome by everyone,” Gill writes in the book. Before he graduated, Gill was interviewed by the website When Steel Talks. Dr. Sobol describes Gill’s achievements as “developing an example for students with learning challenges… Gill has helped to create a paradigm shift of expectations.”
Following his master’s studies, Gill returned to Trinidad and Tobago, where he teaches Music Education at the Center for Education Programmes, The University of Trinidad and Tobago (UTT).
With the publication of his book, Gill says, “It is my hope that this book will have a positive impact on our attitudes as well as on our planning for the education of challenged students, not only here in Trinidad and Tobago, but also in the wider Caribbean region where so much valuable human potential remains unrecognized and is therefore lost to us. I believe that this documented journey can inspire students with learning disabilities as well as typically developed students, motivating them to strive to achieve their highest academic potential. I trust that parents and teachers will find much in my story to energize their efforts.”