News agency, Cape Town, South Africa
Wednesday January 23rd 2019

Orchestra celebrates innovate shift in music education

Musicians from various institutions played with the Ariana String Quartet from University of Missouri to mark the launch of UWC's Chamber Music Institute on Saturday evening. Photo: Steve Kretzmann/WCN


A string orchestra playing the world premiere of a new composition marked the launch of the Chamber Music Institute which will enable musicians without formal training to obtain accreditation at the University of the Western Cape.

The official launch of the institution on Saturday evening marks an innovative approach that not only allows accomplished musicians without formal training to receive Recognition of Prior Learning, it also allows students studying other degrees to obtain tuition and grading in music across intermediate and advanced levels.

To “kickstart” the institute, the Ariana String Quartet from the St. Lois campus of the University of Missouri – which has a 27-year partnership with UWC – spent three weeks working with music pupils at Good Hope Seminary High and Phandulwazi High, as well as holding workshops and master classes at institutions ranging from township schools to the University of Stellenbosch.

Many of the participants in these workshops formed part of the string orchestra that played the first movement of Allan Stephenson’s new Concerto Grosso No.2 at the launch, a composition especially commissioned by the UWC Centre for Performing Arts within which the institution is housed.

Ariana String Quartet First Violinist John McGrosso said working with people in the townships and universities, he was struck by the potential of people in South Africa.

“The most powerful thing about being a teacher is seeing what the future has in store and it is a powerful thing to see what potential the people hold here.”

While the quartet worked hard during their three weeks, the first word that came to mind for Grade 12 pupil and workshop participant Yonela Ngungeni, was “fun”.

Working with the Ariana String Quartet was “fun, amazing”, said Ngungeni, who attends Trafalgar High but is a music pupil at Beau Soleil Music Centre.

UWC Centre for Performing Arts head Henriette Weber said they were trying to change the mindset around how education is offered. There are many people who have the talent but lack the opportunity to receive accreditation, she said.

With 25 students at the institute currently, she said it was amazing to see how people were often able to play music at a level far beyond the theory and music reading level they were being taught at.

Each student had come to music through a different route, she said, from jazz players who learnt how to play at back yard shebeens, to science students who maintained a love for music.

Thus the teaching at the institute was very “one-on-one” rather than slotting them into a “mass programme”.

“We need to be relevant in a changing educational environment.” – Steve Kretzmann



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