I would like to tell you about the many exciting things that have happened at YONA over the past two months.
NATIONAL STRINGS FESTIVAL
One of YONA’s goals is to reach out into the regions of the country to give young musicians in the regions more opportunities. The very first National Youth Strings Festival was organized with that goal in mind.
Our heartfelt gratitude goes to our sponsors who made this event possible:
B2Gold, the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music (ABRSM), GetGraphics, Outsourcing Solutions and Gondwana Care Trust. This event was made possible through a partnership agreement with the National Theatre of Namibia.
The aim of the festival was to improve the standard of string playing in Namibia, to bring youth from diverse backgrounds together around a shared goal and to promote cultural expression in a local context.
There were 29 young musicians participating in the junior orchestra, and 17 in the senior orchestra.
Children and youth from Tsumeb, Otjikondo, Swakopmund and Windhoek participated in the Strings Festival, which happened during the last week of the winter holidays at the National Theatre of Namibia. Daily rehearsals took place from the Monday to the Friday, with concerts on the Friday and Saturday evenings.
Different venues at the NTN were used for sectional rehearsals, and the combined orchestra rehearsals took place on the auditorium stage. On the first day some participants felt a little overwhelmed with the volume and difficulty of the pieces, but with the patient guidance from the conductor and other teachers they managed to learn the notes. Soon they started to have fun with the music.
Lunch break was an opportunity to get to know each other and play games. Many barriers were crossed: Children from different cultures, language groups, socio-economic background and regions got to know each other and soon became friends. Music teachers from different towns and regions also got to know each other, exchanging ideas, encouraging and inspiring one another.
The junior orchestra also had an opportunity to develop their rhythmic skills at the daily drum and body percussion sessions. An interesting event was a tour of the theatre presented by the staff of the NTN.
The result of the hard work over the week was presented at two beautiful gala concerts on the Friday and Saturday evenings.
There were items for junior and senior string orchestra, as well as some items for choir and string orchestra.
The programme contained a combination of classical repertoire and music by Namibian composers.
Dorothee Mariani conducted the orchestras and coached the cellos. Ms. Mariani is from Basel, Switzerland, where she is the founder and conductor of Orchesterschule Insel; a music school focusing on marginalized youth. Her vast experience and love for young people shines through everything she does. The participants learned so much from her and loved playing under her direction.
Apart from conducting the orchestra, Ms. Mariani also helped young musicians to hone their teaching skills. The senior orchestra members learned to help the juniors and are now better equipped to transfer their knowledge back at home.
YONA aims to make this an annual event, expanding to become a Youth Orchestra Festival; not only for string instruments, but also for woodwind instruments and percussion from 2023. Brass instruments would be joining a few years along the line.
In the words of participants, teachers and audience members:
‘’We really learned how to practice’’
‘’Thank you for helping me live my dream’’
‘’Events like this one help to bring peace in the world.’’
Soon after the holidays two collaborations with musicians from Germany took place.
Firstly, the Belvedere String Quintet came to Namibia through the generous sponsorship of Eurowings and the German Embassy. The quintet consists of 5 young people who have just finished grade 12 at Musikgymnasium Schloß Belvedere in Weimar. They presented three concerts in Namibia and also gave coaching sessions to YONA’s string quartet. The YONA quartet really blossomed under their direction and they had the privilege of opening the programme at their final concert in Christuskirche, Windhoek.
The following week, the senior strings at YONA had another opportunity: Playing a side-by-side item with the visiting Kammerorchester Laubenheim (KAMEL). It was an inspiring experience for the YONA musicians. The visitors also came with wonderful gifts to YONA, collected from friends and sponsors in their hometown: an oboe, clarinet, 5 small violins, sheet music and many other accessories for wind and string instruments. YONA deeply appreciates the generosity of KAMEL and their friends.
During the month of August, YONA was visited by three Spanish musicians who worked at YONA as volunteers. Irene Celestino Chico (cello), Marina Solis Vilar (violin) and Lucia Ortiz (viola) have been very busy starting a whole new group of beginner strings players. They also taught our other string players, coached our woodwind ensembles and prepared the YONA children for a weekend of orchestra rehearsals and an informal concert for family and friends. These musicians have extensive experience of the El Sistema movement, and everyone at YONA has benefitted from their input. They also came laden with gifts from students and friends such as a small violin, strings, rosin and other necessities.
Meanwhile the woodwind students have had a clarinet workshop and continue to have weekly lessons and ensemble rehearsals. The recorder players have a new teacher: Miemie van der Westhuizen, and Sonet Grobler is the new theory and piano teacher, who also heads the woodwinds section. Osmond Owoseb’s recorder students are also progressing well at the BNC and Beautiful Kidz centres.
Sadly, we also had to say goodbye to our Weltwärts volunteers, Antonia Heeren, Lena Wilcke, Rose Bartels and Paula Hintermayr, who have been at YONA since September 2021. Each of these lovely German ladies have contributed in their unique way, helping with music theory, clarinet, violin, viola, cello and recorder. They also did a lot of work behind the scenes at the centre, spread many, many sandwiches, decorated the walls, helped with admin tasks, and taught class music at primary schools. We will miss them dearly, but we know they will always be part of the YONA family.
YONA is experiencing immense growth. With growth comes many challenges. YONA covers transport costs and gives food to many of our students. Fuel and food prices are rising, and we want to thank every person or entity who has been sponsoring YONA.
We have been in our new centre for barely a year, and already we need more space for more lessons and bigger rehearsals.
We would like to thank the following institutions who have opened their doors to us for orchestra rehearsals and performances:
The National Theatre of Namibia
Nederduitsch Hervormde Kerk Windhoek/Reformed Church, Windhoek, for the regular use of their church hall,
Emma Hoogenhout Primary, for a greatly reduced fee for the use of their hall.
Our faithful sponsors include RMB, through the FirstRand Foundation Trust, B2Gold, Stichting Horizon, the German-Namibian Foundation (DNG), and various individuals who give monthly support to a child or to a teacher. Thank you for helping us to help change a child’s life.