“If there’s one thing we’re utterly passionate about, it’s the empowerment of our community – and the world at large. We may still be young, but our appetite for enabling South Africa’s future generation has seen us achieve a great many things in the past three years”

How we do it…
When the Casterbridge Music Development Academy (CMDA) opened its doors in 2010, the idea was to provide a platform for local children, especially from previously disadvantaged backgrounds, to develop an interest in music and the performing arts: an idea that we hoped would impact their lives positively. The result has been phenomenal. Suddenly, we’re seeing a revolutionary change in the community. Young adults in Kabokweni and surrounds are starting to harness their talents and take charge of their futures.

In the last few years, we’ve produced a high calibre of musicians and bands who can boast to having performed alongside international act Ali Campbell (UB40), as well as several local South African greats. When they’re not rubbing shoulders with the stars, they spend all their free time prepping for performances at corporate, private and public events, including several local festivals like the popular Innibos Laeveld Nasionale Kunstefees.

2013 marked a new high for the CMDA. We kicked off the year by starting the Lowveld Community Orchestra, which boasts over 50 members and is now a mainstay of our program. Our Performing Arts students were invited to present Ilizwi, a jazz musical based in 1950s Sophiatown, at the World Economic Forum in Cape Town at the BOE Nedbank Arena Waterfront. It was soon followed by a songwriting collaboration with Carnegie Hall and the Rock School Scholarship Fund, both from the USA, that culminated in the inaugural Route 40 Music Festival hosted by the CMDA. Here the winners of the songwriting competition and several CMDA nurtured bands performed alongside Prime Circle, The Parlotones, Vusi Mahlasela, Elvis Blue, ISO, Watershed and many other top South African bands. This festival, with its focus on youth development is unique in South Africa and is made possible with the support of SA’s top musicians.

Band Development
We believe that getting kids on stage is critical to their development. It develops self esteem and confidence and motivates them to work harder. They also begin to appreciate the benefits of hard work (which all musician do) by working hard. These are important life lessons. Our program only differentiates on age; the members must be 12 and above and still at school. In our orchestra, adults participate for a fee. We therefore attract members from different socio-economic backgrounds, races, religions etc. With the focus on music, all of our members see beyond their differences and begin to appreciate the talents of their peers. Social cohesion is the term that defines this and at the CMDA we believe that we do this well. Consider our orchestra, with the brass section from Pienaar, part of the string section from Lydenburg all integrated with adults and students from White River and Nelspruit.

Why Music?
The way we see it, music is indispensable. It fuels education, boosts self-esteem and promotes a global sense of happiness that’s hard to beat – and we’re not just making that up.

Studies by several overseas-based education professionals have proven that students with a consistent musical influence not only outperformed their peers academically, but also experienced lower levels of anxiety and increased emotional stability.

But is music enough?
Yes and no. As much as we believe music is an essential tool for learning and life skills, we cannot dispute the importance of quality education. That’s where 2Enable fits in. E-learning is fast becoming a more effective and invaluable tool in education. However, most schools in rural South Africa aren’t even equipped with a computer, let alone internet access. We believe that a computer without an application to deliver curriculum aligned educational content makes E-Learning (and computers) rather irrelevant. The CMDA addresses this with 2Enable, it’s free ‘School in the Cloud’ designed to operate in rural locations. We now firmly believe there is a purpose for computer centres in schools; they help students learn and teachers teach. They can also reduce the administrative burden on teachers whilst helping them focus their teaching efforts. With 2Enable, computers can now improve results and productivity in all schools, whilst reducing costs – making an excellent education affordable by all.