The Music Enlightenment Project is a community based initiative in the Braamfontein area of the city of Johannesburg founded in 2009. Our vision is to have a world where the lives of children and communities are enriched and transformed through the experience, practice and performance of music. As a mission, we encourage a holistic approach to creating successful futures for children by developing not only their skills as musicians but also their life-skills through music education. In practice, our work with participants (children, adolescents and young adults) has centered on participatory methods of teaching, learning and performing. Since inception, we have had contact teaching with no less than 1,500 participants from across the city of Johannesburg. This has allowed us as individuals and as a project to positively impact the younger generation and break the two most important
barriers to music education (and formal arts education in general) i.e. access and affordability.
The concrete evidence of our work shows in the growth of musical awareness of participants, playing of instruments, achievement of outstanding results in Southern African Region music exams (UNISA – The University of South Africa) and more importantly the sheer love for music making socially. Through this, we have had children continue their personal pursuit for music education at the National School of the Arts and performing in the Johannesburg Youth Orchestra Company. With the recent generous donation of a 270 square-metre space by Rebosis Properties, we are now physically visible in Braamfontein, an area of the city that is currently undergoing revitalisation. Our location close to the University of the Witwatersrand consists of high-rise buildings housing colleges, student residencies, offices and some residential flats, making it more of a cosmopolitan environment rather than a ‘community’ in the traditional sense of the word. This refurbishment of Braamfontein is not only physical but social as a space once feared associated with street crime, dirt and poverty is gradually gaining a renewed positive reputation of arts, entertainment and social life. However, this sense of community is a work-in-progress, generated through our network of participants, parents, schools and supporters from the public. Our physical location is also quite significant as we are within the reach of more residential poorer neighbourhoods like Hillbrow, Yeoville, Brixton, and the inner city on one side and more affluent ones like Parktown on the other side.
Our wider aims beyond music education are couched in our core values including commitment, compassion, creativity, integrity, teamwork and respect. Regular group practice and play times present opportunities not only to learn but to practically develop and hone the above-mentioned values. Over and above this, the development of confidence, optimism, tenacity and enthusiasm through our teaching processes (which encourages participants’ contribution to the learning) is needed for success not just in music learning but in any personal endeavour and in any discipline in life. Furthermore, the availability of a new physical space increases optimism more than ever before that we can expand our reach and achieve our aims. With eleven part-time teachers remunerated on hourly basis, we have been able to contribute to job creation for young semi-professional musicians who depend on their art for living through teaching in an economy where many artists are living from hand to mouth.