More than 70 young musicians will come together to perform at their year-end concert at Sarepta High School on Sunday November 27.
What makes the occasion very special is that the youth will be paying tribute to their mentor and the inspiration behind their sprouting music prowess. They all belong to the Ronnie Samaai Music Education Project.
This year the well-known music benefactor turned 80 and one of Norway’s foremost violinists, music pedagogue Alf Richard, will perform a special birthday piece for Mr Samaai.
The octogenarian, who lives in Paarl, has been a music teacher his entire professional life. He’s been awarded licentiates from, among others, the Royal Schools of Music and Trinity College, London, followed by becoming a Fellow of Trinity College, the latter a turning point which made him dedicate his life to giving South Africa’s young children a start in music.
He taught for nearly 40 years, retiring in 1996 as vice-rector of the Bellville College of Education, and has been involved in projects such as the Western Cape Music Education Project in Kuils River, launched in 1997, which this year was renamed after him.
Northern News attended a music practice for the eager young musicians at the Metro East Education offices in Kuils River on Saturday morning. The children sat in a quadrangle, some perching on the stairs, manoeuvring instruments, some larger than they were. From violins to keyboards, trombones, French horns and trumpets, recorders and flutes, sweet sounds and occasionally cacophonous notes echoed through the hallways leading to their practice area.
Conductor Lauren Du Plooy, a student at Stellenbosch University, gently but firmly guided the mixed group of musicians through their paces, as the children geared up for their forthcoming concert.
Nahum Wilson from Kuils River was wielding a large euophonium as he turned to give us a smile, while Sisanda Sibeko and Alan Josh Makondo, both took a break from blowing into their trombones to chat to Northern News.
Desiree Levendal, one of the members of the project, and the parent of Kaylin, who attends the music sessions, said the children start at the age of eight and, given their musical aptitude, can continue until they matriculate to study at the project.
Some of the children come from disadvantaged backgrounds and most of the musical instruments are donated. With a Norwegian sponsor, some of the youngsters have had the unique opportunity to travel to the northern hemisphere to attend the International Summer Music Festival in Valdres, Norway. And many of the children return to teach the younger generation.
At the project, children study both practical (classical) and theory. Ms Levendal says 99 percent of the instruments are donations and are “loaned” to the children for the year.
Felicia Lesch is the project manager and a lecturer at Stellenbosch University, and like the other 16 teachers involved in the project, she gives of herself selflessly to uplift many of the children.
Ms Lesch, who is originally from Lansdowne, told the children it was “non-negotiable” that they be at the concert and at the final practice. The project is an NPO and Ms Lesch said funding is constantly a challenge and they are always looking for sponsors and help. They have an arrangement with Stellenbosch University whereby final-year music students come and teach in Kuils River.
Simone Davids from Highbury joined the project in 2004 after hearing about it from a friend. Today she offers her experience and learning, giving back to the community.
In addition to the children from Kuils River, children from Khayelitsha are bused in free of charge. Sadly, like all volunteer projects, there are a few challenges like absenteeism and more importantly, that some children borrow the instruments, which come at no small cost, and don’t return them. They are two cellos down due to absent children, the teachers say.
The concert, which takes place on Sunday November 27, at 3pm, will be one way of highlighting the work the project does and garnering some additional funds. There will be a mixed programme of classical music, gospel, traditional African and some pop.
Tickets are R30 for adults and R15 for children over the age of 12.
Call Desiree Levendal on 076 104 3110 or 021 903 4400 for details or buy tickets at the door or visit the Ronnie Samaai Music Education Project Facebook page.