We’ve reached the end of an era

Beginning:  1:52 p.m. CDT on Monday, September 8th, 2014
Listening to:  The Lonely Island’s Incredibad (2009), The Family Crest, and this child reciting Billy Collins’s poem “Litany”
Reading:  The Known World by Edward P. Jones and The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann
Rereading:  Composers at Work:  The Craft of Musical Composition 1450-1600 by Jessie Ann Owens and A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin

Dear Internet:

This morning I learned that an esteemed colleague (whose website I showcase in this blog’s inaugural post) finally left South Africa following a year of service to Keiskamma Music Academy.  Martin Kratzing, now nineteen, of Germany, is one of many young volunteers sent to South Africa each year by SAGE Net Deutschland.   The program provides exchange opportunities for German students:  for example, placing pre-professionals in South African institutions with a decided lack of capable staff.  Those on the exchange receive critical occupational training at a formative point in their career; the organizations and communities they engage with receive invaluable support.  

This was no small matter to our music academy in Hamburg:  in many of our best months, we were a staff of five supporting a rapidly expanding project already catering to over a hundred students.  Each component of that meteoric expansion was a godsend.  (To learn more about SAGE Net, visit their website.  This brings to mind another organization I learned of in Hamburg, Round Square International.)

Although not officially employed by the Keiskamma Trust, Martin’s volume of work for KMA seemed at times on par with that of our manager Anthony Drake and myself.  This in fact coincided with the music academy’s “poorer” months when we were a staff of three.  At that time, Martin’s teaching schedule was just as rigorous as mine; he also faced the added challenge of instructing our youngest students, many of whom had approximately a year’s worth of (in)formal English language instruction.

I won’t easily forget the Saturday workshop when I opted to relieve Martin of some work and teach a class of our youngest beginning recorder players.  These students were at most ten years old:  bright and cheerful as they were, their attention spans couldn’t yet expand to fit the workshop’s hour-long sessions, nor the structure we’d implemented for our older students.  By some grace, the class took to me as I’m sure they’d taken to Martin and left at the end of the day with an introduction to improvisation and a few new tunes under their belts.

Martin returns to his hometown of Nordhausen, once a part of the former Deutsche Demokratische Republik, to a large family and, I’m sure, anxious girlfriend.  The year abroad in South Africa was a decisive and necessary step along his career path:  a bridge between secondary education and university where he hopes to specialize in elementary-age teaching.  This was the first time the teenager had lived apart from home.  I recall from conversation that following this initial eye-opening experience Martin intends to travel in future as much as life will alow.  I also recall the genesis of a grown man in his embrace of a nation and in witnessing him reach out to those vulnerable and apart.

Three entries in:  I still wish for posts to this blog to be more frequent, as I wish for my memories from South Africa to be retained.  But what is equally important to me in maintaining Texts from Africa is that I not take on an additonal deadline because of it.  I’m glad that I’m finally allowing myself to live at least less consciously of deadlines than before; and the memories made abroad will regardless develop, gaining perspective and maturity in future.

Trailing off for now,



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