19 April 2017

Uganda: Jazz Festival Nurturing the Next Generation

The recently-concluded Cape Town International Jazz festival (CTIJF) is a two-day event where showgoers get to enjoy the performances on five stages.

But behind the scenes, months of preparation go into the fest's success. Key in the preparations is the Music and Careers workshop, an annual skills development program aimed at mentoring musicians from less affluent areas of Cape Town.

A total of eight schools sharing the same dream prepare for seven weeks under the mentorship of Camillo Lombard and Donveno Prins. This year, a heart-warming concert was held at the Artscape Theatre, five days before the main event on 31st March to 1st april.

Teachers, parents and music lovers from different walks of life attended the event where catching in action jazz greats Tsepo Tshola, Hugh Masekela, Thandiswa Mazwai and Siya Makuzeni was on the cards.

That is something the festival director Billy Domingo and the head of training and development Craig Parks are very passionate about. Speaking at the opening of the school children's concert, Domingo spoke of the importance for the festival to leave a legacy for the next generation.

Zenta Van Heerden, a music teacher at Cedar High school in Rocklands, has been at the centre of talents development and knows the socioeconomic challenges the students face daily.

"The challenge is we have to take them out of their academic classes to make time for rehearsal. When the others go home, they have to stay behind to catch up on schoolwork," Van Heerden said.

This is a common factor that other schools also face.

"What carries the students is their enthusiasm and love for music," she added.

Tiyanna-Lee Stemmet is from a community on the Cape Flats called Heideveld. This area is well known for gang violence and its high unemployment rate, yet she has found a positive way to influence her community.

She started a band in her home area to keep children engaged. A grade 11 learner at Alexander Sinton Secondary School, Stemmet is part of the school band and got the opportunity to become part of the sustainable training and development programme.

"It boosted my confidence", she said. She is one of those that got selected to perform as part of the jazz festival's free concert at Greenmarket square, opening for acts including Vudu, Mango Groove and En Vogue.

Such initiatives open the students to opportunities at Cape Music Institute and Berklee School, among others.

Also on the sidelines of the festival, under the skills and development training are the Arts Journalism (under Percy Mabandu and Gwen Ansell) and Photojournalism (under Caroline Mwangi) workshops for developing and honing skills needed for capturing the arts and culture narrative.

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