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UWC launch their Chamber Music Institute

UWC launch their Chamber Music Institute

A string orchestra playing the world premiere of the Concerto Grosso No. 2 by Allan Stephenson marked the launch of the Chamber Music Institute and  the re-introduction of accredited music courses which will enable musicians without formal training to obtain accreditation at the University of the Western Cape (UWC).

The official launch of the Institute, held on Saturday 24 August, marks an innovative approach that not only allows accomplished musicians without formal training to receive Recognition of Prior Learning, it also allows students studying towards other degrees to obtain tuition and grading in music across intermediate and advanced levels.

To “kickstart” the Institute, the Arianna String Quartet from the St. Louis campus of the University of Missouri – which has a 27-year partnership with UWC – spent three weeks working with music pupils at Good Hope Seminary High and Phandulwazi High, as well as holding workshops and master classes at institutions ranging from township schools to the University of Stellenbosch.

Many of the participants in these workshops formed part of the string orchestra that played the first movement of Allan Stephenson’s new Concerto Grosso No.2 at the launch, a composition especially commissioned by the UWC Centre for Performing Arts within which the Institute is housed.

UWC Centre for Performing Arts head Henriette Weber said they were trying to change the mindset around how education is offered. There are many people who have the talent but lack the opportunity to receive accreditation, she said.

With 25 students at the Institute currently, she said it was amazing to see how people were often able to play music at a level far beyond the theory and music reading level they were being taught at.

Each student had come to music through a different route, she said, from jazz players who learnt how to play at various projects, to science students who maintained a love for music.

Thus the teaching at the Institute was very “one-on-one” rather than slotting them into a“mass programme”.

“We need to be relevant in a changing educational environment,” said Arianna String Quartet First Violinist John McGrosso. While working with people in the townships and universities, he was struck by the potential of people in South Africa. “The most powerful thing about being a teacher is seeing what the future has in store and it is a powerful thing to see what potential the people hold here.”

While the quartet worked hard during their three weeks, the first word that came to
mind for Grade 12 pupil and workshop participant Yonela Ngungeni, was “fun”.

Working with the Arianna String Quartet was “fun, amazing”, said Ngungeni, who attends
Trafalgar High but is a music pupil at Beau Soleil Music Centre.

For more information please contact Henriette Weber on 021 959 2320 or email  at