- First township music school

- First township music school

The Cape Gate Miagi Centre for Music (CMCM) is due to open at Morris Isaacson High School in Soweto next month. The centre - the first of its kind in a South African township - is the initiative of Miagi, Music is a Great Investment, a non-profit organisation launched in 2001 by distinguished tenor Robert Brooks, Miagi executive director.

The centre will teach music to township youngsters, from classical to jazz and indigenous, and put on concerts for the community. Brooks is hoping that it may serve as a pilot project that can be copied in other areas of the country.

The music centre has been located at the Morris Isaacson High School because of the school’s historic association with the students’ march of 16 June 1976. The building is on the southern side of the school grounds, and offers a lively contrast to the school buildings with its muted pastel and ochre colours, and large angular spaces.

The school, dating back to 1961, was named after Israeli Morris Isaacson, who donated funds to build 10 classrooms. It now has 39 classrooms and 1 300 pupils in grades 10 to 12. Morrison also donated funds to build White City Isaacson Higher Primary, Mavis Hall and a crèche.

The project was made possible through a donation of R6-million by the late Mendel Kaplan, a businessman and philanthropist. Construction of the centre began in mid-2009 and is expected to be finished before its official opening in October this year. Kaplan also donated R7-million for an adjoining hall, completed in July 2009. The centre seats 300 and the hall seats 1 500. The centre can accommodate 30- to 50-piece string ensembles. The hall is for use by the school for assemblies, sports activities and concerts.

The centre will be used as a studio and is also suitable for making recordings. It has a storeroom, a workshop, a kitchen, a library and two administration offices, plus 11 sound-proof teaching rooms.

It is to be run by Miagi, in an agreement with other parties: the Gauteng Department of Education, the Morris Isaacson High School and the Kaplan Educational Foundation.
Miagi will be running the centre for the next 10 years, under several conditions: there will be a minimum number of teachers and performances, among other conditions.
The CMCM will offer general and practical music tuition, including theory and sound studio tuition. Instruments that will be taught include the violin, viola, cello, bass, flute oboe, clarinet, bassoon, horn, trumpet, trombone, tuba, harp, timpani, saxophone, guitar, piano and keyboard.

African instruments will also be taught - the marimba, all forms of African percussion instruments, mbira, pennywhistle and a variety of bow instruments such as the umhruhbe and the lesiba. Ensembles will be set up, consisting of orchestra, jazz, choirs and indigenous groups.

Brooks is hoping that a “centre of excellence” can be created, in which exceptionally talented children will be given tuition.

There are several music education initiatives in the township, and it is hoped that exceptionally talented children from these initiatives will be drawn to the CMCM to receive tuition from dedicated teachers, he explains.

Music theory will be taught, linked to the Unisa curriculum, and pupils will take music theory and practice exams up to grade seven.

Long term, Brooks sees the school as partnering with surrounding pre-primary and primary schools, where music education should ideally begin.

From an article by Lucille Davie on http://www.joburg.org.za
Also see http://www.miagi.co.za

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