(Please bear in mind that I wrote this post on Saturday 23rd but was unable to upload it straight away because there was a power cut.)
I’m really enjoying my time here. Every day brings something new and the students are making rapid progress.
I now have five permanent violin classes: beginners 1 (primary-school-aged), beginners 2 (secondary-school-aged), 1-year violinist and 2 double basses, 2-year violinists, and seniors (2-year, 3-year, 3-year and 5-year).
Beginners 1 are doing very well. I’ve taught them how to hold the violin and bow correctly with the correct posture. They can now play the rhythms “Piccadilly-Circus”, “strawberry-raspberry”, “fatter-than-a-caterpillar” and “Dr.-Suzuki” on the open A and E strings. They’re very keen learners which is very heartwarming for me.
Beginners 2 are also doing very well. I am taking them through the same lessons as beginners 1, although they have had one lesson less than beginners 1 so they haven’t yet learned “Dr.-Suzuki”.
The 1-year violinist and double basses have learned Twinkle Twinkle Little Star and are now learning Lightly Row. As with every class I am checking their posture and bow hold every lesson. I also did some sight-reading with them today.
The 2-year violinists have reviewed Twinkle Twinkle Little Star and are now learning Song of the Wind. I did some sight-reading with them today as well.
And the seniors are learning Allegro as well as a second violin part to it so that they are able to play it as a duet. I did some sight-reading with them yesterday.
Aside from violin, I am teaching the upper theory class and sometimes rehearsing the choir. With the theory class I’m working through the grade books to make sure that they are confident with everything. At the moment we’re a third of the way through grade 2. And the choir are learning my arrangement of The Dark Island, a Scottish song about the island of Barra. Today I took the sopranos and altos and Isaac and Felix (two of the volunteer teachers) took the tenors and basses. We then did several run-throughs of the piece. It’s going well so far.
I spent yesterday afternoon sorting through the school’s violins and putting strings on the ones which were missing strings. All the violins are now sorted into “fully functional”, “need a shoulder rest”, and “need to be repaired by an official repairer”. Every student has been allocated a “fully functional” violin on which to practise. I also worked with Isaac on organising the sheet music. I’m very satisfied that these two jobs are now done. And it was quite an enjoyable afternoon. Isaac, Alex, 2 students and I were all busily working away, humming tunes to ourselves and chatting to each other with the sound of the choir rehearsing in the hall above us.
Thursday afternoon was different from my usual routine: Frank, Brenda and I went to a function by M-Lisada and The Mummy Foundation, two other Ugandan projects which are using music to improve young lives. These projects are funded by Brass For Africa, which was set up by Jim Trott. (It turned out that his wife, Pamela, who works with Jim, is from Aberdeen – I didn’t expect to meet another Scottish person in Uganda!) The event marked the end of a 10-day teacher-training course which the senior M-Lisada students undertook.
The event started with a tour of the Mummy Foundation. This is an orphanage and school for young mothers and their children. It uses music to improve the girls’ lives and keep them out of the bars which they would otherwise be working in. The junior and senior choirs and two recorder players gave us a small concert in their classroom. Then there was a concert at a restaurant nearby which showcased the M-Lisada junior and senior brass bands, the choir from the Mummy Foundation and a very skilled girl gymnast also from the Mummy Foundation. It ended with the presentation of certificates to those who had completed the teacher-training course. The event was attended by the British High Commissioner.
It is really inspiring to see these music projects developing in Uganda. By using music, charities like Musequality are putting in place projects which have a long-term effect, as graduating students are encouraged to do teacher-training and come back to the projects to teach the next generation of students. In this way, self-sustaining projects are being developed.
The world still has a lot to learn from these music projects. At this point in time, not enough people have realised the amazing power of music. We could be using this power a lot, lot more to dramatically improve the lives of thousands of children across the world.