Matooke, violin classes and Scottish singing

Iʼve been having a lovely time here! The teaching is very enjoyable and rewarding, and everyone is so friendly and welcoming.

I was met at the airport by Frank Katoula, the Director of Tender Talents, his wife Brenda and their children Ruben (8 years old) and Grace (6 years old). It would usually be a 2-hour drive from Entebbe Airport to Kasangati, but we stopped on the way to go to the launch of their friendʼs nature resort, which was very nice. When we got back to their house, we had a very good meal of matooke (plantain), kidney beans, cassava bread and spinach.

I spent Monday getting to know the place. I met some of the violinists and listened to them play. I also met Andrew, another volunteer teacher at the school. In the afternoon, Frank took me back to Entebbe Airport to pick up my luggage that had been delayed in Dubai. This was a 5-hour trip in total. On the way back we bought some small bananas at the market. These are sweeter than the normal-sized bananas that are sold in the UK.

The grounds of Tender Talents Magnet School, Kasangati, Uganda
The grounds of Tender Talents Magnet School, Kasangati, Uganda

On Tuesday I started teaching! The day started with an hour of music theory. This was a bit challenging given that I was the only teacher because Andrew and Isaac, another volunteer teacher, werenʼt there. So I had to teach a class of very mixed abilities ranging from complete beginners to students who had been studying theory for 5 years. I decided to cover some basics to make sure that everyone was confident with them.

I then taught 3 violin classes. Again, these were mixed abilities. And in the afternoon Andrew and I rehearsed the choir. We started by reviewing some of the songs that the choir knew well, and then moved on to learn Carol of the Drum, as the choir are starting to build up their Christmas concert repertoire. The singers are very quick at learning by ear.

Today started with an hourʼs lesson with the youngest violinists who have just started to learn the violin. I found this lesson very enjoyable. The children were laughing and having fun, and so was I! They are all very keen learners. In fact last night I found Ruben and Grace in their bedroom teaching Isaac (10 years old) how to play (Isaac hadnʼt had any lessons before today).

Frank then led a session of dancing with all the students outside, which was very fun. And then I taught the upper theory class some key signatures and enharmonic equivalents.

Then it was back to violin teaching. The classes were better organised today, so I could focus more on the studentsʼ needs. I taught a class of secondary-school-aged beginners, then a class of one violinist who has been playing for 1 year and two double basses, then a class of six violinists who have been playing for 2 years, and then the senior class of Gloria who has been playing for 3 years and Unia who has been playing for 5 years.

After lunch it was time for choir again. This time I led the rehearsal myself, as Andrew was ill. We ran over Carol of the Drum again. I also taught them part of The Dark Island. It was so lovely to hear them sing a Scottish song!

I've made friends with the school dog
I’ve made friends with the school dog

This evening 3 of the girls took me into Kasangati. We went to the market and saw chapatis (which are very popular here) being made. We also saw the Kingʼs temporary lodgings, the football pitch and the villageʼs club. It was lovely to spend some time with them and share stories of our different cultures.

I already feel so at home here – both because Frank and Brenda and their family are so welcoming, and, since I lived in Ethiopia for 2 years when I was 10 and 11 years old, being back in Africa feels like home to me. Really looking forward to what the next few days will bring!


Isla 🙂

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