Herbst Music Programme Hillbrow

His last words to his granddaughter: “Follow your heart and make a difference”, have inspired Erica Louw to go and do just that – with music and education. Erica  started to volunteer at the Abraham Kriel Children’s Home after moving to Johannesburg in January 2015. She noticed that one of the big challenges faced by the staff at the home was to get to help the children with their motor and cognitive development, she also knew that music education was one of the best ways to do this.  Erica’s path crossed again with an old university friend,  Joy Meyer, who has taught in similar projects in Atteridgeville, at the ACT | UJ Arts & Culture Conference in 2015. After the go ahead from the Children’s home, they teamed up to start the  Herbst Music Programme, in honour of her grandfather, Christiaan Pieter Herbst. Every Friday they go to the home and teach the violin, and 20 youngsters are now learning all about the magic of music.



Be a hero

Working at children centres as a community musician, my life is surrounded by heroes/heroines. People who touch my heart deeply. Take Margaret for instance. She’s just there to iron the clothes of the children, but you often see her with a child in her lap. I asked her one day about her role at the children center and she told me that it is part of being a mother. One could see that motherhood for her, not only extended to her children, but to all the children of the children centre. My response was of course to tell her that the world would be a better place if more people were like her. I still think it would be.

Now that me and a friend are thinking of starting a music program at another children center (watch this space for more detail), it made me realise again that we have the power to make a difference. Joseph Campbell describes in his book, A Hero With A Thousand Faces, that the hero’s journey starts with the call to adventure. Now, with starting our new program, it sure feels like a scary adventure, with both of us being placed outside our comfort zones. We know that we have to answer the call and start this new adventure, no matter how scared we are!

Through this call, I realised exactly what I want to do with my life. It has strengthened my plans to become a community musician, bringing people together through music. Even though I feel like I am not in the place where I want to be, I am where I should be. I should be here making a difference. 

I thought at one stage that I have to do these big world changing deeds, but actually, it’s the little things. Even if it’s giving that stranger a compliment, or just telling the lady at the grocery store to have a nice day. It’s the small acts of kindness that will change the world. Be a hero. Be the change.

Graduation 2015

Sorry for being a bit MIA on my blog. Lots has happened these past few weeks, that I have to share here on my blog.

So firstly, on the third of March, I graduated. See the graduation selfie above. I just couldn’t resist! ☺

This event was important to me, not only because I successfully ended four years of study, but with me graduating with one of our students, that started his violin lessons in Atteridgeville in 2008. He got his Diploma degree in Music and now he is doing his BA degree.

This is a big dream come true for us, seeing as this is a big step towards our programme becoming sustainable, with teachers coming from the programme itself. It is so great that he has the possibility to reach his musical goals.

“We are the sum of all people we have ever met; you change the tribe and the tribe changes you.”
― Dirk Wittenborn, Fierce People

This quote reflects the fact that I didn’t do this alone and that a lot of people contributed to this achievement. I would like to thank all the people I have met along the way and moulded me into the person I am today. Thanks to the people who believed in me and gave me amazing opportunities to grow and to learn! I am extremely grateful!

Welcome to South Africa Rytmikcenter Stockholm!

I don’t know how to start this blog post. I am currently sitting in front of my computer, wondering how I should try and explain how much this week meant to me. So, I will start from the beginning.

I had the lovely opportunity to exchange to the Royal College of Music in Stockholm, Sweden, where I received classes in Dalcroze Eurhythmics and Violin Pedagogy. My Dalcroze lecturer said that she is planning a trip to South Africa in 2015 with her Rytmikcenter colleagues. I suggested that Atteridgeville should be included in the trip and then we started planning….

On Monday, the guests arrived, from Sweden and Norway. After a few hours of rest, I gave them a presentation about the underlying philosophies we have when approaching our teaching in Atteridgeville. This gave them an idea about what to expect when visiting the two children centres in which we teach.

Tuesday, we made the big journey to Atteridgeville. This was a lovely day. We teached a little bit, played our Suzuki pieces and we did a little bit of Dalcroze exercises which the Scandinavians lead. They also gave toys to the children centres – that was kindly donated by Jabadabado. You can find out more about them at: http://www.jabadabado.com/ 

The afternoon ended with a little playing and Dalcroze, but mostly with a jam session involving some kwêla and township songs. This was so lovely, seeing one of the ladies working at the children centre coming inside and starting to dance with Scandinavian audience. I couldn’t help but to dance myself and I lost myself in the music.

A big shout out to Dumisane and Sam from Siyasizane Shuttle Services who transported our guests between Atteridgeville and Centurion. If you every need a shuttle company in the Gauteng area, they are professional and helpful! Check them out at http://www.siyasizanashuttle.co.za/

This week ended in Potchefstroom where there was a Dalcroze Eurhythmics workshop. My body is in recovery from all the movement and fun, but is was so worth it. I experienced that Dalcroze Eurhythmics is a powerful tool creates a deep sense of connectedness. I hope to use more Eurhythmics with our students in Atteridgeville to create the same sense of connectedness that I experienced this weekend.

Saying goodbye to the Rytmikcenter ladies as they leave for Lady Grey (the next stop on their tour), was so sad. If you’re curious to know more about their South African tour, you can follow them on https://www.facebook.com/RytmikcenterStockholm

I’ll end this post with the following translation from my favourite Swedish folksong:

I can sail without wind!
I can row without oars!
But not part from a friend so dear,
part without shedding a tear.

The featured image was taken by Marie Bejstam. Tack för trevlig bild! Thanks for the lovely picture!

An act of hospitality

The book of Lee Higgins, Community Music: Theory and Practice, finally voiced the underlying philosophy I had when it came to community music. The fact that he mentions the notion of unconditional hospitality  – welcoming the potential music participant with open arms – resonated so strongly with my beliefs as music teacher in the Atteridgeville and Hillbrow communities. The book is really a must read for any community musician.

Music teaching in the Atteridgeville community is always approached with a sense of hospitality. Welcoming any participant that has an interest in playing the violin. No auditions. No questions asked. Every child can learn the violin with us.

To quote Derrida on his writings of hospitality: “hospitality, if there is such a thing, is an experience…” We try to give our students the experience of hospitality every time when we teach them through a hug, a smile or a compliment. Sometimes it is hard though, when the children centres have visitors or functions and the whole teaching environment is in chaos, when the instruments break or when there is so much noise… How does one create a sense of hospitality in a challenging teaching environment?

So on that note I would like to welcome you to our blog that centers around community music programmes that we are involved in Atteridgeville and Hillbrow. If you’re involved in similar community music programmes in your area, please leave a comment and share your experiences of how hospitality features in your community music programme.