Musical Magic in the Midlands

Silindile School pupils playing music by Matthew Drew

photo of Silindile Recorder Group by Matthew Drew

A couple of afternoons a week, some rural kids walk for miles while others wait patiently for lifts in the rain after missing their regular afternoon transport. The inconvenience is deemed worth it for the joy of spending time learning about music with Helen Mennie.

Helen runs Music Voyage based in Nottingham Road. The project aims to develop inherent musical talent in marginalised individuals and empower them to take advantage of social and economic opportunities in the world of music. The vision is to have a performing orchestra made up of proficient musicians from many backgrounds.

During class, students are taught how to play an instrument, to read music and the theory of music in a trusting environment. The programme emphasises the importance of achievement after effort and the rewards of trying hard. Students get to see places they would never usually have access to and share musical experiences with passionate musicians and music fans. Mildred Zuma, principal of Silindile Primary School in Fort Nottingham where 19 pupils participate in the programme, comments: “It means a lot to our learners to be part of music. Besides learning to read and write music it develops their skills in reading and maths and improves discipline. They feel so proud and gain confidence from playing in front of many people.”

Helen tutors 58 students in brass, woodwind and string instruments. 8 students are entered for Associated Board Royal Schools Music practical recorder Grades 2 and 4 this year, with 11 having passed the grades during the past couple of years.

Helen says: “Our students stick with us and more join each year which is so encouraging. We find that it is vital to have the support of family members and the community as this makes our programme so much stronger and sustainable. Many of the children we work with are orphans or living with older siblings, we give them structure and hope for the future.” Obviously, Helen is a musical fairy godmother – helping in so many ways.

Dumisane Mnculwane a trombone player living in Bruntville, who had not picked up his instrument for many years and now plays in a local brass band agrees “Helen is a great musician, a great teacher and a great community worker. She has made a big difference in our lives.”

As a charming mug at the Notties shop Purple Heron states: ‘Music Saves Lives’. It certainly changes lives in the Midlands.