Keiskamma Music Academy moves in

Beginning:  2:50 p.m. on Tuesday, September 16th, 2014
Listening to:  Julia Kent’s Character (2013) and music by The Watersons
Reading:  The Best American Essays 1986 (edited by Elizabeth Hardwick) and Ballistics by Billy Collins
Rereading:  Composers at Work:  The Craft of Musical Composition 1450-1600 by Jessie Ann Owens, A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin, and Sailing Alone Around the Room by Billy Collins

Dear Internet:

Here is a subject I’ve wanted to shed light on since this blog’s start:  Keiskamma Music Academy‘s relocation to its new music building.

There is a saying among Western European Trust workers I heard throughout my nine-month contract:  T.I.A.  “This is Africa,” a country where you wait for everything.

July 22nd of this year saw the official launch of the Hamburg Town Centre hosted by the Amathole District Municipality and company Aspire.  On that day, KMA received the green light to move musical instruments and teaching equipment from space rented at St. Charles Sojola High School to their new permanent home.  The move was celebrated with musical performances by KMA students on recorder, marimba, and various orchestral instruments, to which all members of Hamburg’s Xhosa community were invited.


Keiskamma Music Academy’s room at St. Charles Sojola High School (Hamburg, SA). The space was rented for use by KMA from 2006 to 2014.

I received news that the move was to take place roughly a month after leaving South Africa.  At that point, KMA had waited over seven months since its first projected move in late December 2013.  Had we then been able to move, the new facilities would have been ready to use just before the start of the January term.  But the date was pushed back, and pushed back, and pushed back till it seemed it would never come.  This had partially to do with the speed of some slight remaining construction through Aspire as well as lengthy, perilous negotiations with the municipality over the building’s lease.  On the ground, lessons continued as we made effort to minimize tension with our lessors at the high school and to assuage our students’ disappointment.


Keiskamma Music Academy’s new music building. Pictured from left to right are Music Academy founder Helen Vosloo and Keiskamma Trust director and founder Carol Hofmeyr. Photo by Anneke Viljoen.

July’s swift, unanticipated welcome to move warranted thanks for the long-awaited arrival of the day we’d assured students would come; but the end to the months-long period of uncertainty was also a dire reminder of the truth “this is Africa,” the reality of a glaring disconnect between South African public and private sectors that risks damage to small communities even within actions designed to help.  Short of blind indifference and corruption, competency at the municipal level and greater remains an issue to address.  In my nine months, I saw students already wise to the system take it upon themselves to improve local circumstances.  To complement this, KMA staff assisted high schoolers in community action projects facilitated by the Trust and outside organizations like Enke.  I hope that students continue to use these opportunities as much as their musical training to launch careers and become leaders in their own right.

In my current life I’m also noting the remarkable passage of time and proof of the speed at which unanticipated change can occur.  Alongside work for the Illinois Department of Human Services, writing, and performance, I’ll soon begin teaching English as a Second Language (ESL) at the Harrington College of Design downtown.  I felt secure in January that my return from South Africa would see me settled on the East Coast, a goal I upheld and worked steadily toward till only two months ago, when I had to make the intuitive choice to remain in the Chicago area for grad. school preparation and work.

Contrast January with September:  I am standing before a small class of French exchange students at Harrington, telling the story of my career’s course from Canada, the United States, South Africa, and back.  In less than a month, I make the leap from guest speaker to lecturer.  For now, I am busily crafting a new syllabus, very much looking forward to taking responsibility for classes of my own.  The students I spoke to today were the most positive and attentive yet; and as with those in Hamburg I hope they exceed my example and surpass themselves en route toward their respective career goals.

Trailing off for now,


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