Kaestner Delano Robertson
1941 - 2018
Kaestner Robertson, a pianist and organist, chaired the music department at Atlantic Union College and the music and fine arts department at Northern Caribbean University during a teaching career that spanned over a half century. He traveled to over thirty countries, performing in many of them as a soloist and recitalist.
Kaestner was born in Rollington Town, East-Kingston, Jamaica, on October 5, 1941, one of three sons of Martin Luther, a railway worker, and Gladys Robertson. His mother died when he was seven and his grandmother helped raise him and his two brothers.
He was fascinated by music in his earliest years and began formal piano study at age four with Carmen Falconer and by age eight was the pianist for services at the Rollington Town SDA church and other churches in the Kingston area. At age eleven he started lessons on organ. A piano student of Rita Core, he won several awards in Jamaican music festivals and became a Licentiate of the Royal Schools of Music in 1959 and a Fellow of the Trinity College in 1960. During this time, he also made appearances on radio and TV.
At age twenty he turned down a scholarship to study mathematics and physics at the University of the West Indies, to the disappointment of his relatives and friends. A year later, however, he received a Jamaican government scholarship to pursue music study at Boston University, where he studied piano under Hungarian pianist Bela Nagy, completing a B.Mus. in performance, Cum Laude, in 1965. In addition to receiving prizes for piano performance and in music theory at BU, he was nominated in his senior year for membership in Phi Kappa Lambda, a national music honor society, and awarded a scholarship to participate in the Boston University at Tanglewood Summer Program.
Kaestner continued government-sponsored graduate study with a stipend at BU and completed an M.Mus. in 1967. He then returned to Jamaica, where he served as chair of the piano department and the Division of Western Music at the Jamaica School of Music, now The Edna Manley School of the Visual and Performing Arts. He also started the Fine Arts Chorale at the Kencot SDA Church which toured throughout the island and won several gold medals in the local Jamaica Cultural Development Corporation Festival Competitions.
In 1978 Kaestner returned to the U.S. to work on a doctoral degree at BU and teach music part-time at nearby Atlantic Union College. On July 8, 1979, he married Josephine Morrison, an acquaintance of many years who would later complete a doctorate and serve as an administrator in middle school education for several years. They would have a son, Martin James Delono.
Kaestner became a full-time faculty member at AUC in 1980 and completed a D.M.A. in piano performance at BU in 1991. While at BU, he had also studied organ with Max Miller and choral conducting with James Cunningham and Allen Lannom.
During the next 31 years at AUC, Kaestner taught piano, piano pedagogy, and theory and served three times as chair of the music department, until he retired, recognized as a professor emeritus, when the college closed in 2011. In 1995 he was soloist in the world premiere of Margarita Merriman's Concerto for Piano and Orchestra with the Thayer Symphony Orchestra directed by Toshimasa Francis Wada, an appearance that had great meaning for him.
He was a frequent recitalist and accompanist and was featured as a soloist with numerous other orchestras. In addition to guest appearances in the United States, he also played solo recitals and presented master classes in Canada, France, England, Puerto Rico, Barbados, Trinidad, Bermuda, and the Bahamas. Despite his busy schedule, he also served as Director of Music at the Pilgrim Church in Leominster, Massachusetts, and Minister of Music at the First Church of Christ in Suffield, Connecticut.
In September 2011 Kaestner was invited to present a recital at the School of Music at the Edna Manley College in Jamaica during its 50th anniversary. It was a distinct honor, for he had been both a student and teacher at the school and was regarded as one of their distinguished alumni and teachers.
Beginning in 2012, he became chair of the Department of Music and Fine Arts at Northern Caribbean University, a position he held until 2018. During his tenure he achieved accreditation for the music program, effected changes in the faculty and content of offered programs, increased the status of lyceums and an annual Feast of Lights program, and established lunch hour concerts and the NCU Community Music School.
Kaestner upheld high standards in his teaching and had firm beliefs about appropriate worship music. He had an encyclopedic knowledge in music and other areas of the arts. He was regarded as a kind and insightful person, guided by an understanding of human nature. He was known for his pursuit of musical excellence both in himself and in his students and the desire to train socially aware musicians.
In August 2018, he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, a reality he dealt with bravely, drawing on his belief of another life beyond this one. He died on October 18, 2018, at age 77. He was survived by his wife, Josephine, who is principal of Sullivan Middle School in Worcester, Massachusetts; and their son, Martin, and his wife, Clarissa. A Kaestner Robertson Memorial Scholarship for NCU music students was announced by Josephine at that time of a memorial service held on November 23 at the university.
Sources: Martin Robertson, Kaestner Robertson Life Story, Memorial Service, November 4, 2018, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nEMac1hkmKM; Carl Cunnington, "Music Department Gets New Chair," June 28, 2012, http://news.ncu.edu.jm; Gary Gray, "Government Invites Native Son Home," Atlantic Union Gleaner, October 25, 1983, 5; Music Ministry, Journal of the Seventh-day Adventist Church Musicians' Guild, January-March 1988, 2; Myrna E. Candelaria, "New Faculty Appointments at AUC," Atlantic Union Gleaner, September 9, 1980; "The Northern Caribbean University family mourns the passing of Professor Kaestner Robertson," October 19, 2018, https://centralja.org; "Internationally renowned pianist returns to Edna Manley College for 50th anniversary celebrations," September 18, 2011, www.Jamaicaobserver.com; Josephine Morrison Robertson, observations at Memorial Service, November 23, 2018.