Musical Memorial for Legendary Percussionist Strikes a Chord, New London, Connecticut
A new musical memorial has been erected in New London, CT, to honor the percussionist Dwight "The Professor" Baldwin, known for his commitment to serving his community for the betterment of society.
Dwight passed away in 2021 at the age of 70, but not before leaving a positive impact on thousands of lives through his love and talent for drumming. His teachings emphasized the importance of the artistic process and created a motivational learning environment for community music-making in a safe, healthy, and dynamic setting. Every student was encouraged to develop independence, take risks, collaborate, and trust others.
Phire Baldwin, the daughter of Dwight, organized a memorial that features multiple outdoor drums available for the community to play and enjoy. The percussion memorial includes the Large Babel Drum, Cajon Drum Circle, Congas Trio , and Rainbow Sambas. It can be found near the Parade Plaza, where New London's Whale Tale Fountain is situated. This area was Dwight's favorite spot, where he often played and encouraged people to gather and participate. Drum circles are still held every Monday in the same place.
New benches have also been installed for people to listen to the drums being played, along with a Black Heritage Trail marker. In addition to this, a scholarship has been created in Dwight's name to support students with disabilities who aspire to pursue higher education.
Earlier this year, Phire Baldwin contacted Percussion Play, the world-leading manufacturer of outdoor musical instruments, to discuss the project and order the drums. The drums were installed this summer.
Phire shares her thoughts on the new music memorial created in memory of her father. She discovered Percussion Play when it was suggested to her to get a statue in her father's memory. However, she wanted something more interactive, which led her to recall her memories of artistic displays she had seen back home in Canada, such as an installation on the streets of Montreal. After deciding on drums, Phire contacted Percussion Play and browsed through their catalog. She found the Babel drum to be perfect for the sounds it produced. Her idea was to create something colorful, interactive, and accessible, so she also chose the Rainbow Sambas and Congas Trio. This way, groups of different people can use them to create a drum circle.
Dwight Baldwin was a versatile musician who performed on the streets, taught anyone who wanted to learn and gave popular resident performances. He also recorded albums. One of the remarkable things about Dwight was his commitment to working with young people with disabilities. He used drumming as a form of therapy and learning tool to enhance their lives. Additionally, Dwight taught the students at the Montreal Association for the Blind home.
Phire explained that Dwight was supported by renowned drum companies, such as Remo Drums and Latin Percussions (LP). He touched listeners worldwide with his passionate rhythms and unwavering dedication to the art of drumming. Dwight often played African Latin beats and shared the history of the culture that pulsated through the communities. He continued to collaborate and perform until his passing and was a band leader in the Shades of Joy band. He also frequently played and led drum circles at the New London pier. Dwight was a respected member of the New London community, and his legacy will endure through the musical memorial for him.
The community has provided positive feedback, expressing how honored they feel to witness Phire's vision come to fruition. The city of New London's councilors unanimously voted to approve the funding for the instruments and have led the project to ensure that Dwight's passion for drumming will continue to be felt for many years to come.
A music memorial was set up by Public Works, the parking authority, and several members of the community to honor Dwight. Mayor Michael Passero, Rich Martin (President of the New London Cultural District), and Curtis Goodwin (Heritage Trail Director) were a few of the people who contributed to the project and helped in its establishment. Many individuals from the community came together to express their sentiments and pay homage to Dwight.