Music and other art forms have often been regarded as secondary to education when it comes to schooling, especially in communities where access to resources is severely limited.
Yet, research has shown that not only does music have a positive impact on a variety of skills but supports educational processes and the development for children as well.
Therefore, shouldn’t the argument be made that the most vulnerable children in our communities are overwhelmed with an abundance of resources that would help place them on a competitive footing with their peers in more affluent communities?
That’s exactly the question that struck musician and composer Roland Moses. Moses was dropping his daughter off at her upper-middle class school when he noticed a taxi full of school children disembarking at the nearby state-run high school.
The juxtaposition of these very different worlds was overwhelming for Moses because as a child he’d been one of the children piling out of the taxi.
Moses grew up in Phoenix in Durban, cited as the largest Indian townships outside of India, where at a very young age he started playing the piano for church services. Moses was mostly self-taught and started receiving formal music lessons at the age of 17 under the guidance of Dr Chloe Timothy who opened a whole new world for him. Moses said it was like a switch being turned on when Dr Timothy taught him the major scale – something that had puzzled him for some time. “It was then,” says Moses, “that I quickly realized the value of formal music education and wished that I had this learning opportunity when I was younger.”
Roland had received a bursary to study computer science at university but when he learned he could study music instead, he auditioned and when he got in, switched over to music. After which he completed a Doctorate in Literature and Philosophy (DLitt et Phil) in Musicology and MMus (cum laude) in Jazz Performance, Composition and Arranging.
He also attended Goteborg University in Sweden as part of a student exchange programme and was selected as the pianist/composer/arranger for the Standard Bank National Youth Band.
Moses has received various awards and prizes; performed at numerous local and international Jazz festivals; presented master classes, lectures, and solo concerts at renowned universities abroad; and recorded as a sideman on a range of albums.
This harkening back to his own youth as he saw the children in the taxi galvanized Moses into action and he started brainstorming ways in which he could help children in townships experience that spark of passion for music he had as a child. “Due to the poor socio-economic conditions, low household income, and living in a township, it was impossible for me (and others like me) to access formal education.”
He chose to focus his efforts on Nokuphila School, a programme of The Love Trust. By coincidence, Moses met Eustace Wilken, a fellow musician and product manager for Yamaha South Africa, at a music festival abroad for advice. Wilken introduced him to the programme which had been running for a few years in Kwa-Zulu Natal.
Together Roland and Wilken set up the music programme at Nokuphila School in Thembisa. The programme includes teacher training, which Yamaha teachers train teachers on the primary musical skills in combination with how to play the recorder. Only once the teachers have completed the training are they allowed to teach the children themselves.
The enthusiasm and joy that this brought to the staff and learners is hard to express in words. It was like an electrical current that shot through everyone and electrified the staff and soon there were requests coming in from other Nokuphila staff (the gardeners, the kitchen staff, the cleaners, and the principal) all wanting to learn to play the recorder – and they did!
Children looked forward to their music lessons and the chance to play the recorder because the simple truth is that they would never get the chance to play such an instrument anywhere else.
Moses has taken it upon himself to finance the development of a sustainable music programme at Nokuphila School through sales of his CD Paths of Light, (a compilation of some of Moses’s compositions which strongly focus on the healing power of music – its influence on the mind, body, and soul).
All proceeds will go towards the purchase of recorders, books, keyboards, and computers for learners to have access to formal music lessons encompassing a holistic approach to music education.
Should you be interested in learning more about the Yamaha Recorder Programme and how you can get involved, then contact Eustace Welkin.