Goodbye and thank you!

I have now arrived home after an incredible 4 weeks teaching music at Tender Talents Magnet School, Kasangati, Uganda. It was amazing beyond anything that I could have imagined. The experience of teaching was incredible. I witnessed the students grow as musicians and as people, and I too have grown as a person and as a musician. Teaching made me very happy because it involved me giving the students something very special – music. I could see that music made them happy and that made me happy too. It was so heartwarming for me to finish an orchestra rehearsal with them and for them to shout, “Again! Again!” because they found such enjoyment in playing the music.

It was particularly heartwarming for me to be the conductor of Tender Talents’ first ever orchestra rehearsal and orchestral performance. Sharing musical experiences like this for the first time is very special and is something which I will always treasure.

The final concert on Friday (12th September) went very well. The students made me very proud. Each violin class and double bass class played one piece, the orchestra played Trumpet Parade, the choir sang Every Time I Feel The Spirit, The Dark Island and a traditional Ugandan song, and the orchestra and choir came together for another traditional Ugandan song. There was even some Scottish dancing (Strip The Willow) danced in traditional Ugandan dress which was very funny, as well as some impressive Ugandan dancing. To conclude the students sang Auld Lang Syne to symbolise the friendship that we’ve built with each other over the past month. As you can tell, the concert showcased a lovely combination of Ugandan and Scottish cultures.

Beginners 1 performing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star to the rhythm of Piccadilly Circus
Final Concert: Beginners 1 performing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star to the rhythm of Piccadilly Circus
Beginners 2 performing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star
Final Concert: Beginners 2 performing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star







Seniors performing Brahms' Waltz
Final Concert: Seniors performing Brahms’ Waltz


Tender Talents Symphony Orchestra performing Trumpet Parade
Final Concert: Tender Talents Symphony Orchestra performing Trumpet Parade








Strip the Willow in traditional Ugandan dress!
Final Concert: Strip the Willow in traditional Ugandan dress!
Finale: Auld Lang Syne
Final Concert: Finale: Auld Lang Syne






I spent Saturday and Sunday with my Mum (who arrived in Uganda in time to come to the concert) at Lake Mburo National Park. We went on a horseback safari on Saturday afternoon and saw a lot of zebras, impalas, waterbuck, bushbuck, warthogs and many different kinds of bird including the Ugandan national bird, the Crested Crane. We then went on a night-time safari in the evening when we saw the same animals plus a glimpse of a genet cat.

Show of Ugandan music and dancing
Show of Ugandan music and dancing
Zebras at Lake Mburo National Park
Zebras at Lake Mburo National Park







Mum then flew back to Edinburgh and I spent Monday and Tuesday in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, where we lived for two years when I was 10 and 11 years old. It was very nice to be back again, although it was quite sad to see how much has changed since we lived there. It was particularly shocking to find that our old house has been knocked down to make way for new housing and office developments. It was lovely though to see my old violin teacher and to ride Bora, the horse I used to own.

I will never forget my trip to Tender Talents. I am so grateful to Frank and Brenda and family for welcoming me so warmly and for giving me the best hospitality I could have dreamed of. I now have a second family in Uganda – a second mum and a second dad and so many new brothers and sisters that I’ve lost count! And I don’t say that lightly – they really do feel like family to me. And the opportunities that they gave me outside of my teaching hours were fantastic: Ugandan cultural shows, a Ugandan wedding, a day out in Kampala, a trip to Kaka’s, and trips to all of the music projects in Kampala (M-Lisada, Mummy Foundation and Kampala Music School).

Me, Mum and some of the family
Me, Mum and some of the family
Me and some of the family and students
Me and some of the family and students







I am glad to be home after so many tiring plane journeys, but I miss everyone at Tender Talents incredibly. I really hope to go back next year, as I had such a fantastic time there. I wish the school the best of luck over the next year, especially to those in S6 who are leaving school at Christmas. Another massive thank you to everyone who made my experience there so amazing. Till next time!

Isla 🙂

Leaving Uganda
Leaving Uganda

3 thoughts on “Goodbye and thank you!

  1. Isla, there are no words to describe your incredible spirit. You changed our lives . We thank you ever so much for your spirit of love and sharing. I believe all the young people you worked with have developed a new attitude towards life. Every morning you were with us was so special for me. I wish I could show you more. You really are family now and we hope and hope we shall see you again in Uganda. Our challenge is to keep watering the plant/seeds you have left behind so that when you come back they would be sprouting.
    Thank you so much for sharing with us as a family and of course you experienced the true sense of an elastic African family!!!!. My name traditionally means the generous or the giver,thus I live to the prediction of those who fore told my future.
    I have challenged my self to playing the violin so may be when you are back I could be playing some, hope I find the time and patience!!!.
    Thank you to your Mum, who loaned you to us for the Month you stayed with us. Thank you to all that made it possible for you to come over. Everybody is so full of admiration for you and the way you are committed to your work. I wish you all the Luck at your University.
    Thank you Once again Isla. We cherish your relationship to us.


      1. You’re very welcome, Frank. It was a wonderful experience for Isla, and you are such a great family for her to stay with. Thank you for welcoming me too to your house and school. Isla learned so much from you all, and had a great time. Hopefully she’ll be back! Love to you all.


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