Thursday, 31 January 2013

Summer Camp in Hogsback

From January 7th - 11th 2013, 48 students from Keiskamma Music Academy enjoyed a unique and exciting camp experience at Hobbiton Outdoor Centre in  Hogsback. Generous funding allowed us to take 48 music students from our core programme in Hamburg as well as from our new extension group in the nearby village of Bodium. For many of these young people it was their first experience of staying away from home and family, so the schedule and the activities were unlike anything they had ever tried before.

Many outdoor challenges really stretched the youngsters both physically & mentally. Students progressed through low & mid-ropes activities to a high-ropes course on the final day. It was surprising on the fourth day how many of the group were happy to attempt a nerve-wracking climb, 'trapeze' jump, or climbing wall, such was their growing confidence in themselves. 

Many of the activities took place in small groups or teams that encouraged a mix of ages and abilities. Students were not always able to remain in groups with their friends, but had to rotate through a variety of groups and learn to communicate and negotiate with everyone. Each team had to work together to support weaker members. As teachers, we were impressed by the good-natured team spirit and communication. Older students were very helpful and encouraging with their younger team members. During the week the young people faced many personal challenges. The weather was wet and conditions were quite tough at times for outdoor activities. However, with a helping hand and a little encouragement, they all participated fully.

We also scheduled sessions during the day for focused instrumental ensemble music. The group worked on fine-tuning some of their existing repertoire as well as learning new ensemble music.  In the spirit of teamwork that had been developing through the camp, older students took initiative in volunteering to take groups of younger students aside for extra help learning their music.  The students staged an informal concert on the final day for staff and volunteers.  The emphasis during the week was not on performance, however, but on sharing music-making as a group. Some students appreciated the chance to practice new pieces with their friends in their (very little!) spare time.

During a night hike on our final evening, we reached an open space in the woodland where we stood in silence in a circle in the darkness, sensing each others' presence, listening only to the night sounds. This was a moving experience for some of them. Encouraged to voice their thoughts, one boy spoke up:

'I have never been in a group like this before... I have never been out in the forest at night. I thought it would be dangerous but I know now that I can face my fears...'

I felt that he expressed the feelings of many around the circle that damp evening.
These few days at camp will remain vibrant in our students' memories for years to come and perhaps provide a key to open doors to future opportunities that they may not have dreamt of otherwise.

Monday, 28 January 2013

Busy Days in the After-Care Centres!

Life has been very busy at the Eva & Bjorn Centres, and at Hamburg After-Care over the last few months! At Bjorn Centre in Mgbaba the garden has flourished with the assistance of the Umthati project from Grahamstown, and there are even enough extra vegetables to sell which helps raise funds for school uniforms & food parcels for those most in need.

Staff from Fish River Sun and the Masibambane Primary School have offered us wonderful support too; we have received several boosts to our reading collection, and we are about to embark on some new activities through the Creative Development programme, so things are buzzing here!

Fish River Sun staff, Umthati Project, Masibamasane primary school pupils,
community members and staff and children of the Bjorn Centre at
 Mgababa Village on Madiba Day.

In Lover’s Twist, Eva Centre is also a busy nurturing place. NACCW workshops have given the staff a lot of insight into child development, communication, HIV awareness etc. The garden here is blooming too, providing welcome vegetables for local families.

Hamburg After-Care has been leading the way on the Creative Development programme with regular staff training sessions leading into an exciting activity programme on Thursday afternoons. The Nal'ibali reading programme has been in full swing and monthly themes (Women, Madiba, Heritage) provided more opportunities to learn and have fun.

Nokhanyo Nkani is now full-time operational manager of all 3 OVC centres, and, with her wide experience in Human Resources, she has been a great asset in helping to draw up systems and procedures. National Arts Council have provided funding for the Creative Development programme to expand and flourish at the centres so there will be more news of how the programme is shaping up in the coming months!

‘Ndim Lo!’ – ‘This is Me’ is the central theme of the 6 session introductory training: a series of one-day experiences which involve trainees doing their own ‘sensing’ (spontaneous creativity in response to different sensory stimulations), then translating this experience into planning a structured session for children, delivering the session that afternoon in the centre, followed by non-verbal reflection time through an arts medium in which their own experiences and their observations of the children are recorded.

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Opera comes to Keiskamma Music Academy

Keiskamma Music Academy wrapped up 2012 with a bang! 

We were joined for our ten day Christmas workshop by a host of international visitors. Ellen Marie Prag from Norway worked with our violin students on their technique and musicianship.  Paulus van der Merwe, a South African who connects us to Hamburg, Germany through his work as principal oboist for the NDR symphony, visited Hamburg South Africa again to continue the relationships he has established with our ensembles and to provide intense solo coaching for several senior students.

We were also delighted to spend two days with the team from Opera for Change, a group from the United Kingdom that has been travelling from Nairobi to Cape Town on a pilot project with the goal of introducing the world of opera to communities across Africa.  This initiative is providing local children with the opportunity to express themselves while interacting with the various components of opera: music, movement, and theatre.

In preparation for this workshop we learned about Mozart’s Magic Flute, an opera that contains all the elements for a classic opera hit: love, hate, revenge, and an angry mother.  We even learned to play some music from the opera on our recorders.

Photo: Jen Hoyer

Andy Staples of Opera for Change led us in creating our own opera about a fantastical world filled with dragons, unicorns and magicians.  He also brought a portable recording studio that allowed students to interact with recording technology and try their hand at recording their own music.  A video of our two days with Opera for Change highlights some of these fun activities.

Our workshop wrapped up with the annual Hamburg Christmas Concert.  For our Bodiam music students who joined us during the workshop, this was the first opportunity to perform.  Everyone had a wonderful time ringing in the holidays with Christmas music and opera melodies!