Pro­vid­ing first-class mu­sic ed­u­ca­tion.

When I look at the Durban Mu­sic School (DMS), I see a tiny glimpse of what is pos­si­ble when people who are pas­sion­ate come to­gether. Par­tic­u­larly with spon­sors who un­der­stand the im­por­tance of mu­sic ed­u­ca­tion for all chil­dren in South Africa, be they or­phaned, dis­ad­van­taged fi­nan­cially, or phys­i­cally dis­abled. The school is a non-profit or­gan­i­sa­tion that has Sec­tion 21 Com­pany sta­tus and is run by a board of direc­tors with Bon­gani Tembe as its chair­per­son.

We are able to give 611 or­phaned or vul­ner­a­ble chil­dren the op­por­tu­nity to re­ceive first-class mu­sic ed­u­ca­tion by giv­ing them full mu­sic bur­saries. They re­ceive ev­ery­thing they need to learn to play an in­stru­ment and are then equipped with the skills they need to find em­ploy­ment in the in­dus­try. The chil­dren re­ceive the in­stru­ment of their choice, which they are ex­pected to take home and prac­tise on ev­ery day. Some in­stru­ments are very ex­pen­sive, but I find that when a child who has very lit­tle ma­te­ri­ally and very lit­tle sup­port from adults, is given an ex­pen­sive in­stru­ment and we say to them that we feel they are wor­thy and we trust them, the child’s self-es­teem sky­rock­ets and they look af­ter their in­stru­ments with great care. Most chil­dren come to the school when they are around 12 to 14 years old. We as­sess them very care­fully and iden­tify those who we feel will be suc­cess­ful as mu­si­cians later in life. We pay for their prac­ti­cal and the­ory lessons, and ex­ams. They also re­ceive trans­port money, sheet mu­sic and en­sem­ble train­ing. The ex­ams that the stu­dents do are in­ter­na­tion­ally recog­nised so that they can use this ac­cred­i­ta­tion if they want to ap­ply for a job or study fur­ther.

It doesn’t mat­ter how good a mu­si­cian a per­son is, if they have been trained by an ed­u­ca­tor on a one-on-one ba­sis in a stu­dio and have never had en­sem­ble train­ing, they won’t be able to get a job in an orches­tra, band or

en­sem­ble. Pro­fes­sional en­sem­bles don’t have the time to train some­one to read a con­duc­tor. So, with this in mind, as soon as our learn­ers reach grade two mu­si­cally, they join one of our twelve en­sem­bles. This also forces them to work in a group, learn con­sid­er­a­tion for other mem­bers and learn to sight-read well, a ma­jor con­sid­er­a­tion when work­ing in an orches­tra. We have a cello en­sem­ble, a jazz band, a string en­sem­ble, a gui­tar and per­cus­sion en­sem­ble, a ju­nior wind band, a marimba group, a sax­o­phone en­sem­ble, two choirs at the Open Air School (which spe­cialises in ed­u­ca­tion for learn­ers with phys­i­cal im­pair­ments), a choir, a con­tem­po­rary band called Kwini Kuza and our most se­nior en­sem­ble, the KwaZulu-Natal Youth Wind Band (KZNYWB). All these en­sem­bles prac­tise reg­u­larly and per­form at func­tions and do ed­u­ca­tional con­certs at schools. They are of­ten booked by eThek­wini Mu­nic­i­pal­ity or the Depart­ment of Arts and Cul­ture (DAC) to per­form at their func­tions. Three-hun­dredand-sixty-two of our learn­ers take part in these en­sem­bles.

The KZNYWB, ju­nior wind band and jazz band have all done well re­cently. In March 2017, the KZNYWB en­tered a pres­ti­gious in­ter­na­tional youth mu­sic com­pe­ti­tion held at Carnegie Hall, New York, and were one of five en­sem­bles cho­sen to com­pete out of 36 from around the world. They went on to win a gold award.

In Oc­to­ber 2016, the ju­nior wind band en­tered the an­nual SAMOV (The South African March­ing Band and Con­cert Orches­tra As­so­ci­a­tion/Suid-Afrikaanse Mars- en Kon­ser­torkes Verenig­ing) com­pe­ti­tion, tak­ing home first place and the award for Best Over­all Im­pres­sion, Dis­ci­pline and Neat­ness.

The jazz band was re­cently in­vited to take part in the Univer­sity of Stel­len­bosch’s en­sem­ble com­pe­ti­tion where they did well. They also won first place at a na­tional com­pe­ti­tion in Em­pan­geni in 2016. The band has per­formed at the Dundee Jazz Fes­ti­val and the Ed­in­burgh Jazz and

Blues Fes­ti­val – where they have an open in­vi­ta­tion as they were a real hit with the au­di­ence there. An­other high­light was be­ing asked to per­form for the then Vice Premier of the People’s Repub­lic of China, Ms Liu Yan­dong. She loved the band and asked them to visit China.

A def­i­nite high­light for DMS has been a grant from the DAC that en­abled us to build a state-of-the-art record­ing stu­dio. The stu­dio will be used to teach our stu­dents what to ex­pect when they do record­ings and to record them play­ing so that they can play the record­ing back and hear what their per­for­mance sounds like – all with­out the ex­pense of

“We are able to give 611 or­phaned or vul­ner­a­ble chil­dren the op­por­tu­nity to re­ceive first-class mu­sic ed­u­ca­tion by giv­ing them full mu­sic bur­saries”

book­ing out a com­mer­cial stu­dio. One of the main rea­sons for the stu­dio is to use it to train people with the skills needed to be­come sound en­gi­neers. This is a good job that pays well and I be­lieve a par­tially sighted per­son would also be able to ex­cel in this field. We are plan­ning to give bur­saries to chil­dren from the Open Air School so that they have an­other op­tion when it comes to a ca­reer.

Our an­nual street fes­ti­val is held in Oc­to­ber. We close off the street in front of the school and in­vite our com­mu­nity to a free day of en­ter­tain­ment. The fes­ti­val starts at 10:30 and the mu­sic and danc­ing goes on non-stop un­til 17:00. It is a great day with hun­dreds of people com­ing to en­joy the en­ter­tain­ment. We have our en­sem­bles per­form­ing and then in­vite other groups to join in the day. These include clas­si­cal In­dian mu­sic, Zulu dancers, jazz bands, our mu­sic learn­ers from the eThek­wini creche, po­ets, Maskandi artists and the SANDF march­ing band. This is one way we en­hance so­cial co­he­sion in our com­mu­nity as people from dif­fer­ent walks of life, cul­tures and races come to­gether to en­joy the day. It breaks down bar­ri­ers be­tween the dif­fer­ent groups and they chat and be­come friends.

For many years now, DMS has been send­ing ed­u­ca­tors into pri­mary schools to teach mu­sic ed­u­ca­tion.

As the school is a non-profit or­gan­i­sa­tion and re­lies com­pletely on do­na­tions, I would like to thank our spon­sors who con­tinue to sup­port us and the im­por­tant role they un­der­take in the development of our youth.

This amaz­ing com­mu­nity arts cen­tre is only here be­cause there are people and or­gan­i­sa­tions who un­der­stand the im­por­tance of the arts and how it im­pacts com­mu­ni­ties. Play­ing and lis­ten­ing to mu­sic can be a pow­er­ful tool for cre­at­ing so­cial co­he­sion in com­mu­ni­ties. Mu­sic breaks down bar­ri­ers, even if people can’t speak each other’s lan­guage, be­ing in­volved in mu­sic gives them a com­mon lan­guage that they can all un­der­stand.

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