DAY 3

August 23, 2014

I’m already being told what to write on what should be my blog and I haven’t even written a sentence…

 

Today we were up for a 9 o’clock start. A twenty-five minute walk from our accommodation to the academy woke us up and by the time we arrived we were raring to go. We spent the morning doing some teaching and talking to the teachers about classical music in Zambia. The Academy’s work is very much intended to promote classical music-making in the community. There is a good culture of pop and various other styles of music in Zambia, but classical music is seen as difficult and unnecessary. The teachers recognise that in order to progress in playing an instrument takes much practice and time – these things don’t happen overnight – and a lot of the difficulty is in showing both students and parents that this is alright, and that the benefits of playing an instrument far outweigh the costs associated with learning it. So the academy hopes to change the apathetic attitude towards classical music by offering cheap tuition and starting to create a culture where children can play in ensembles, and develop a love for music-making. Our part in this vision is to provide inspiration for students and teachers alike, as well as to offer musical teaching at a level that most of the teachers don’t have. Most of the teachers have only played their instrument for four or five years, but already show a remarkable degree of progress reaching grade seven or eight in multiple instruments. There is definitely a very strong sense of musicality in the Zambian people. The challenge that the academy faces is in helping to give classical music a place in Zambia. Why should classical music have a place in Zambia? Because the children that learn at the academy get so much out of producing music of their own from instruments. Far more than I think I did as a child. In fact, I think that it is such a pity that this country, where people are so eager to learn when they are opened up to music-making, has so few resources and such little culture to promote it.

 

At about eleven o’clock we had a break and so went next door to the local adventist church where a large group of children from different schools and different ages were practicing songs and dance moves they had learnt for an offering of food on the Sabbath. This was yet another example of the joy that children everywhere seem to have for music and music-making, but the extreme difficulty that Zambia has with giving children the chance to do so. We danced and sung with them and then joined in their break – making icing for cupcakes, playing football, taking lots of photos (hopefully some to come once we have permission) and doing the splits! The children are hopefully going to come to the academy at some point next week, where we will be able to show them some instruments, get them to sing some songs, and further extend their understanding of music beyond what they have been able to experience up until now.

 

In the late afternoon both Anna and I had the incredible opportunity to sight-read a violin trio with one of the better violin students. He was an exceptionally capable sight-reader, given his overall standard on the violin, and so we were able to give him a sense of what ensemble playing can feel like. He relished the experience and, like my voice students this morning, did not want to leave, but unfortunately the academy was ready to close for the night as all the teachers went home, and so we had to too.

 

Our first outing with ‘the beast’ was an overall success, excepting some awkward gear changes and a slight loss of direction due to Anna’s inept map reading! We ended our evening with a delicious pasta meal where neither Anna nor I could help but let out a few faces that we had kept hidden away from the camera…

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