The Durban Youth Music Development Centre

(Durban Music School) is in the heart of Durban, South Africa, in the Albert Park Area, in an exceptionally low income area, almost a ghetto or slum but the reason that this position was chosen was that Mr Dannewitz, the first C.E.O and Artistic Director of the centre, felt that he could enrich and offer a future to the children of this neighbourhood. This community is previously disadvantaged and the centre hopes to help with the regeneration of this area. He could have chosen anywhere in Durban but his heart went out to the children who had no chance of ever getting music lessons or hearing good music. The centre draws many talented young musicians from the surrounding townships and because it is centrally situated it can accommodate children from all over the Durban Metropolitan area. Four times a year the centre puts on concerts and invites the community to come and listen at no charge and these concerts are a highlight in this area, with many of the local children performing in them.

"The centre is also a safe haven for the children who spend afternoons here practising, having lessons and ensemble training. This gives them something to do; it keeps them off the street and gives them a hope for a bright future."

Many are orphans or come from homes where there is only one parent. We also have HIV Positive learners here and it is amazing how being able to play an instrument gives them good self esteem and a positive outlook. I am convinced that this positive and confident attitude helps them in handling their condition. In past years we have had an HIV / Aids councillor on board and she worked with the children who we know are HIV positive. We plan to run HIV/ Aids awareness programmes with our bursary children focusing on hygiene, sex education and nutrition.

 A few years ago one of our learners, Menzi Vananda, died from Aids. He was ten years old and had been playing the violin for two years. He loved his instrument and worked very hard at his music studies. We had entered him to do his first exam and he was so proud and happy. Being able to play the violin definitely improved the quality of Menzi's life and brought him much joy. I feel that to be able to offer young people this opportunity is a privilege and we strive hard here to make this possible.

Five years ago we embarked on a very ambitious project. We were given 100 full bursaries by the Paw-Paw Foundation and we awarded them to junior school learners from schools in the Inchanga area. This is a rural area 50 kms outside of Durban that has been particularly hard hit by the devastation caused by HIV / Aids.  These learners are all orphans or vulnerable children and we hope to make a huge difference in their lives. They were each given a musical instrument, a music stand, sheet music, two uniforms and shoes. We also provide them with a meal whenever they have their lessons and give them fortified pap and soya mince to take home which is enough for a week. They receive a lesson in practical, a lesson in theory and choir / ensemble training once a week.

We bring 27 children from a children’s home in Hammersdale, Lily of the Valley, to the school twice a week for lessons as well. These children are orphaned / vulnerable children and 97% of them are HIV positive.

We have partnered with a primary school in KwaMashu, Bonisinani Primary and twice a week 54 children whom we have given full music bursaries to come to the school for lessons. We have an outreach programme at The Open Air School, which is a school for physically disabled children, and we teach 120 learners at the school 4 times a week.

We have started a program at a Children’s home in Newlands East which teachers 48 street children music education. The focus of this program is to keep them busy so that they don’t get up to mischief and try to find drugs and steal. We have had a very positive response with the boys all showing great interest in learning to play a musical instrument.

These projects form part of our development programme which we have been running for nine years now. We offer full bursaries to children and give them complete training in the musical instrument of their choice. We average about 400 bursary learners every year and in 2012 we were very proud that 88 learners were entered for external examinations. In 2011, 71 were entered and received 100% pass results. In 2013, 77 learners entered external exams and we had two failiers.

We are also exceptionally happy that we have 12 young South Africans who all studied at the school from the age of 13 or 14 who are now employed as junior teachers. These young people come from poverty stricken homes and a few of them are orphans. If it weren’t for the school they would have slipped through the cracks and become a burden to society instead of al having well paid jobs and they are contributing to their communities in a huge way. They also make our outreach programs possible as they are able to teach very young learners in Zulu.

Unfortunately this all comes at a cost and we have to cover core costs and bursary costs annually. As a non-profit organisation with 21 company status we need to raise every cent we require as we have no income at all.

We need to find at least R 1 600 000.00 to cover our core costs and then another R3 000 000.00 to keep our bursary programmes running annually. This year for the first time the eThekwini Municipality has given us an annual grant of which R 270 000.00 goes to core costs and R 730 000.00 to our bursary programmes. We really appreciate this and it will prove to be a huge help in running this school of excellence.

Our bursaries are the focus of the school as we believe that we need to enrich children’s lives and train our future audience or else live entertainment will die in this country. We also see that our children have a purpose to their lives and gain huge self esteem when they are given the opportunity to learn to play an instrument. We have seen an improvement in their school marks especially in maths and these bursary programs impact the whole community as the children perform at funerals, weddings and other community gatherings and they uplift the whole spirit of their areas 

We would like to be able to move into other rural areas close to Durban e.g. Hammersdale, Shongweni and start bursary projects in them and try to uplift these communities as well.