Music Crossroads: Setting pace in music education
Music Crossroads continues to play a crucial role in training the youth in music education in Southern Africa having managed to set up music academies.
The trend in the past was different where Music Crossroads only laid its ground on music competitions which was also one way of nurturing talent. The competitions have seen different bands getting chances to perform outside the country.
Several groups from Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Malawi have competed during inter-regional competitions and those who have done well have ended up touring Europe.
Malawi through Music Crossroads has had bands touring Europe having triumphed during the regional competitions and they include Mafilika Band and Body, Mind and Soul.
Bands like Mafilika have gained ground and through their European tour, they ended up sharing the stage with several other bands. The band has since then never looked back and has performed in various festivals including Lake of Stars Festival.
The group was recently in China where it performed close to five shows alongside Faith Mussa and is set to perform in US with The Very Best, a group made up of Malawian Esau Mwamwaya and Swedish Johan Hugo.
This simply shows how Music Crossroads has helped built bands into a force in the country.
But having noticed a gap in music education, Music Crossroads decided to shift from holding competitions to setting up music academies which are today in operation.
Music Crossroads Malawi Director Mathews Mfune says the academies in Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe are helping a lot as many musicians have now acquired the necessary skills and that they can now read and write music.
“We still have more work to do but we are going the right direction. Many of our musicians have been performing using their inborn talent and this is why many of their songs lacked quality and that is why we thought of bringing in academies so as to give these musicians music education,” says Mfune.
He said the academies were also aimed at giving the youth a career in music.
“With University of Malawi – Chancellor College as the only place training music, we felt we could come in and help. Several musicians have enrolled and have graduated and are now on a better position since they know how to read and write music,” said Mfune.
He said they have been holding meetings to look at the shape of the academies in the three countries revealing that the funders are impressed with the progress made.
“We are looking ahead to the next strategy for Music Crossroads Academies. We have a partner meeting recently in Zimbabwe where we met the sponsors and the donors are impressed with the progress made and we are encouraged with the work so far,” said Mfune.
Musician Jaco Jana, who also graduated from the Music Crossroads Academy and is currently in Norway, has hailed the Music Crossroads for shaping his skills.
“I should be frank with you, my skills in music were way down before I went to Music Crossroads Academy but now it’s a different story. I know music and I now do it professionally,” said the youthful artist, who has one album to his credit titled I Will Shine.
Mfune however, observed that although the academies are now producing graduates who understand music, they have several challenges on the ground zeroing in on the level of curriculum saying students find it difficult.
“As Music Crossroads we want to produce graduates who can be able to go out there and be professional. This is why our level of curriculum is way up. So at the moment most students are actually real beginners,” said Mfune.
He said this is a trend not only in Malawi but Mozambique and Zimbabwe where most students who enroll have little background of music such that they normally start from scratch.
“Most of the students we have do not read and write music and with the level of the curriculum we experience a number of dropouts,” said Mfune.
He said to avoid dropouts, they are looking into creating a preparatory course that will offer an intensive one month preparations to the students before they go to the next level.
“We have agreed that we start this preparatory course because we do not want to be hit by so many dropouts. We want more youths to be part of this music education course,” said Mfune.
He said the other challenge they are experiencing as Music Crossroads especially in Malawi is that many parents still do not recognise music as a career.
“We have had students coming to register but then they have problems paying fees because their parents do not believe that music is a career. We actually have visited parents of some students to reason with them to pay school fees for their children but the response we have got is that music to them is not a career,” said Mfune.
He said there is a need to sensitise parents that music is a career and not something which is done to pass time.
“We really need to change this mindset because there are children out there who have talent and would love to pursue careers in music but they can’t because their parents would not allow them let alone paying their school fees,” said Mfune.
He added that they have had other students going ahead with their studies sourcing their own funding despite being neglected by their parents.
“The government needs to help us change this general perception from the public that music is not a career. Music is a career and people are making a living through it,” said Mfune.
The music industry or creative industry as a whole has been neglected and yet it contributes a lot to the development of the country.
Mfune maintains that music is a career and this is why they are advancing music education in the country.
He said they are determined to help change the face of music in the country by training more musicians and that they would want people to start recognizing it as a career worthy pursuing.
With Malawi having a few music schools, a few musicians in the country have undergone formal music education. Many lack the basics and only use their inborn talents.
“We are building musicians who have all the ingredients in them. We want musicians who are professional because in that way they will be able to transform themselves, produce quality music and at the same time strive to hit the international market,” said Mfune.
“We want more musicians who can understand and read music and in that way our industry will grow. At the moment we only have a few musicians who can read music.”
Music Crossroads Academy made its first outing graduating 19 students.
Meanwhile Mfune revealed that the Music Crossroads Malawi Academy has been hit by robbers recently who have been stealing equipment and other items.
“We just want to thank the police for working tirelessly to help us but, our academy has been a target of robbers who have been walking away with our equipment used for teaching,” said Mfune.
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