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Carnegie Hall Heroes: Dexter Oliver

Carnegie Hall Heroes
Photo by Chris Lee

Dexter Oliver, Cleaner

It’s a wonderful environment—the music, the people. It’s a nice, warm, cordial relationship and you meet a whole cross-section of artists and visitors.” Dexter Oliver has been cleaning Carnegie Hall since 1986, and he’s seen it all. “I even met Kenny Rogers once,” he says. “I said to him, ‘I usually use your songs to fall asleep, but I’d better not fall asleep on the job!’

“I am responsible for ensuring the theater is properly cleaned and ready for the next performance. Sometimes I do it at night if there’s a matinée. We have a team of 18.”

For him, Carnegie Hall is literally a “dream” job. He explains: “One night I dreamt—and this is a true story—of being in a place that I’ve never been before. A week after I got the Carnegie Hall job, I looked and it was what I’d dreamt about. It was the exact place I’d seen in my dream. It’s really strange—I don’t know how to explain it.”

If you lose something in Carnegie Hall, Dexter might be the man who finds it. “I remember once it was in the middle of the winter, and somebody left their winter coat. To me it was very strange because it was a very cold day—once you’re outside, you’d realize you’d left something like that behind! I think once somebody even lost their wedding ring. The team found it, and they got it back.

“One of my favorite orchestras is Boston. Seiji Ozawa [their former music director] is an amazing guy. My family is Caribbean—I’m from Grenada—and this kind of music is not part of our culture. When I started, my family was like, ‘What kind of music is that?’ But you just lose yourself in it. I just listen to the music. Now most of the time when I’m driving, I’m listening to classical music. It’s such a wonderful art and you just have to put yourself in it and enjoy. That’s one of the things I’ve gained just working there.”

This article first appeared in Carnegie Hall: 125 Years of an Iconic Music Venue’s Most Remarkable People and Memorable Events, available at carnegiehall.org/125th_Anniversary_Magazine.