The Buskaid Music School offers specialised string tuition to approximately 110 youngsters aged between four and 30. Over the years the school has had to turn away hundreds of students through lack of resources, and in 2002 Buskaid implemented a very successful teacher-training scheme for both junior and senior students. Apart from Rosemary Nalden and Sonja Bass, Buskaid’s cello and bass teacher, the string staff consists solely of senior Buskaid students, five of whom are currently employed as assistants to Rosemary and Sonja. They in turn are supported by a number of younger trainee teachers. To celebrate the 20th Anniversary of the founding of the Buskaid Trust, and the Buskaid Music School’s 15th Anniversary, the Buskaid Project was renamed the Buskaid Academy of String Teaching and Performance.
In fifteen years the school has produced an outstanding string orchestra which, through numerous appearances at corporate functions in South Africa, has generated significant revenue for the Buskaid Trust. Apart from its many regular South African appearances, the Buskaid Soweto String Ensemble has toured internationally on some twenty-one occasions, performing with great success in London, Paris, New York, Los Angeles, Holland, Ireland, New Zealand, Botswana, Syria, and Colombia; and as guest artists at the City of London and Cheltenham International Festivals (2001 and 2004) and the New Haven International Festival of Arts and Ideas (2003). In February 2007 the Ensemble travelled to Paris with four members of the Cape Town-based project Dance for All to take part in Sir John Eliot Gardiner's "domaine privé" at the Cité de la Musique, featuring the music of Jean-Philippe Rameau. Two days later the Ensemble presented its own classical programme at the Cité, for which it received standing ovations and a rave review from Le Monde.
On March 10 2012, nine Ensemble members appeared at the UK Observer Newspaper’s TEDx presentation at Sadlers Wells Theatre, London as part of Rosemary Nalden’s TED presentation about Buskaid. Two days later this Ensemble gave a highly successful concert in central London to a packed and ecstatic audience. The Ensemble’s most recent overseas tour was to France in June 2012, where they gave five highly acclaimed concerts in Paris and Toulouse. The Ensemble has performed several times in the presence of Nelson Mandela, for Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth 11, HRH Prince Charles and other members of the British Royal family, as well as for many distinguished foreign dignitaries, including the First Lady of the United States of America, Mrs Michelle Obama.
Such achievements are a tribute to the youngsters’ dedication and discipline, basic requirements for anyone wishing to master the complex skill of playing a stringed instrument. Inevitably this training has a powerful influence on all other aspects of their lives. Many are high achievers in their academic work. Those youngsters who battle with problems such as difficult home circumstances, drug abuse and bereavement, find both support and solace at the Music School.
Whilst providing a first-class training ground for the exceptional musical talent to be found throughout the townships, Buskaid also challenges its members to attain to high standards in all aspects of their lives, giving them confidence and a great sense of optimism about their future. In all senses they are role models and a fine example of how a modest endeavour can impact powerfully on both local and international communities.
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