Alison Feuerwerker is a violinist and music teacher from Ontario, Canada, and she was a PAA music volunteer in South Africa in January and February of 2016. On a January morning I am singing along with Toto’s song “Africa” while I do dishes.…
As a volunteer, you give a platform for local children, especially from previously disadvantaged backgrounds, to develop an interest in music and the performance arts: an idea that impacts their lives positively. Since the inception of this project, there has been an incredibly positive change in the community. Young adults in Kabokweni and surrounding areas are starting to harness their talents and take charge of their futures. Musicians and band from our project have performed alongside international act Ali Campbell (UB40), as well as local bands Mango Groove, Watershed, Elvis Blue and Judith Sephuma to name a few. Young musicians at our performing arts center also perform at corporate, private and public events, including several local festivals like the popular Innibos Laeveld Nationale Kunstefees. Recently, our performing arts students were invited to perform Ilizwi at the World Economic Forum in Cape Town at the BOE Nedbank Arena Waterfront.
“I truly enjoyed my time volunteering with Performing Arts Abroad in South Africa. I loved getting to know the students and staff and applying my music teaching skills in a totally new way. The students there are so eager to learn, and the environment in which we stayed was very enjoyable. I loved every minute of this program and recommend it with the highest regards.”
Performing Arts Points of Interest
The Crypt Jazz Restaurant
If you’re a Jazz fan, head down to the Crypt, Cape Town’s newest venue for live Jazz situated under St Georges Cathedral. As co-founder Mario Thompson says, ““We are first and foremost a jazz bar, not a restaurant that happens to offer live music.” At the centre is a raised circular stage, where esteemed local and international ensembles play five nights a week before candlelit tables. Take in your music with a light snack or dinner.
For music with an African influence, pull up a chair at Long Street’s Mama Africa any day of the week. While enjoying hearty African dishes at your table, take in live music performed by young local musicians. There are three marimba bands which each play twice a week. You might even be moved to get up and give the cosy dancefloor a whirl.
Asoka is a bar and music venue in Cape Town that hosts jazz nights every Thursday. It’s a small venue and tables fill up quickly so arrive early. Shows start 9pm and entrance is free!
PAA Home Base
Most of your days will be spent at the music academy where you will be volunteering. The academy has a large performing hall with a main stage, as well as several smaller performance spaces and classrooms and a recording facility. Students come from around the area to take classes and form bands with fellow musicians, and the academy plays host to an annual music festival with several thousand attendees.
About the Location
This program is in White River, South Africa, which lies approximately 20km north of Nelspruit, the capital of Mpumalanga, the centre of a well-developed industry where vegetables, sub-tropical fruit, flowers, nuts and timber are produced. It has become extremely popular as the town is perfectly positioned as a holiday stop over and base from which to explore the many attractions of this great province, most of which are in comfortable driving distance of the town. The charm and tranquillity of White River has induced many of the country’s foremost potters, painters, sculptors and furniture makers to settle there, hence the name”The Artists Town”.
The area offers a number of outdoor activities, from water rafting, abseiling and diving to game drives, micro lighting and hot air ballooning. There are also 3 top 18-hole golf courses in the vicinity and the area’s nature trails, on foot or on horseback, are a wonderful way to see the abundance of flora and fauna. Fly-fishing is very popular and there are a handful of stocked dams and streams in the area. Probably the most popular attraction is Kruger National Park, one of the biggest game parks and safari destinations in this region of the continent.
Most volunteers will stay in a homestay with a staff member’s family, with two meals per day and laundry provided. The most common homestay is with one of the center’s directors and his wife, who live in a beautiful home with several guest rooms.
When the homestay is not available, we rent out a shared house or apartments, depending on the number of participants on the program at one time. The residential area in which you will stay is a typical middle class suburb, similar to U.Ss smaller town suburbs. All accommodations are on lit, paved roads with plenty of neighbors. While it is safe to walk around at night, the walk to the center is along a busy road and it is not recommended to walk along it after dark. Thus, for any night events or functions, a member of management will drive you back to your accommodation. Apartments have a maximum of 2 participants staying together and there will always be individual, separate rooms and a shared kitchen and lounge area.
You will have your own room regardless of the type of accommodations offered during your session. It is common for you to be the only Performing Arts Abroad volunteer during your session, especially outside of the busier summer months. When this happens, it is a great opportunity to create deeper more meaningful relationships with the staff and students of the academy.
A Day in the Life
The Participant Experience
A cacophony of sounds meets your ears as you move from one practice room to another, assisting multiple bands of young people with their sets for the upcoming music festival. You pause to enjoy the collision of drumbeats, guitar riffs, and xylophone tunes before hurrying on your way to greet the next group of eager students. That afternoon you climb in a car and venture out to the edge of town with a staff member to lead a music workshop for youth in a township with limited access to music education. And to think just yesterday you were standing in a Land Rover cruising through Kruger National Park with your head sticking out the top, marveling at the parade of elephants lumbering by…
As a volunteer, you will be a valuable asset to our partner music academy, which gives a platform for local children, especially from previously disadvantaged backgrounds, to develop an interest in music and the performance arts. Since the inception of this project, there has been an incredibly positive change in the community. Young adults in Kabokweni and surrounding areas are starting to harness their talents and take charge of their futures. You will volunteer at least 10 hours per week for at least one week, although we highly recommend staying at least two weeks.
You will book a flight to arrive at Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport (MQP), where a member of our staff will be there to greet you with a PAA sign. You will be taken from the airport to your housing where you will spend the rest of the day settling in, unpacking, and getting to know your hosts. Depending on your time of arrival, you may get a chance to see the music academy’s headquarters right away, although many volunteers do this in the first day or two after arrival. When the time comes, you will get an orientation to White River and the surrounding area, the center where you will spend most of your time, and townships on the edge of town where the center conducts outreaches and remote trainings.
A Typical Day
On most days, you will wake up and eat breakfast with your hosts, then be driven to the center to assist with tasks needed for that day. You will be invited to teach workshops and classes based on your skill level, and will have ample opportunities to collaborate with local musicians. Many past volunteers have participated in jam sessions and even spent time in the recording studio with a variety of music ensembles. You will have plenty of time to explore the local area, including a safari in South Africa’s biggest game park – Kruger National Park – and an elephant rehabilitation center.
Founder and Executive Director
Reynolds graduated summa cum laude from Washington University in St. Louis in 2008 with a degree in Theater and African and African American Studies. For an honors thesis Reynolds filmed, edited, and produced a full-length documentary in Kenya with Haba na Haba, a group using performance for education and social change in the slums of Nairobi. This project earned him the Forum on Education Abroad Undergraduate Research Award. A year later, Reynolds organized a trip to bring Haba na Haba to the United States for a tour of St. Louis and Washington University. Immediately after graduation, Reynolds worked in Rwanda as a filmmaker for Millennium Congregations, an interfaith organization connecting communities of faith in the United States with development projects in Rwanda’s Bugesera District. Reynolds then served two years with Teach for America, teaching in the South Bronx and receiving a Masters Degree in Education from Hunter College. He completed a second graduate degree in African Studies from Indiana University in Bloomington, and his Masters thesis focused on the impact of donors on the creative process of Theatre for Development (TfD) groups in Kenya.
Reynolds has traveled extensively in Africa, spending time in Ghana, Sudan, South Sudan, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. He also studied acting, voice, and movement at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre in London. Reynolds is a two-time Rhodes Scholarship finalist, the inaugural recipient of the Dred and Harriet Scott Award for the Advancement of Human Rights, and the winner of two research fellowships. He was also a Dialogue Fellow for the Xenia Institute, has twice served as the co-director for the Roosevelt Institution’s International Diplomacy Center (Washington University branch), and was president of the Graduate Students of African Studies (GSAS) at Indiana University.
Reynolds lives in Northampton, MA with his wife Julia who is a professional costume designer and his daughter Lily who is a cute baby. In his free time Reynolds likes to play his guitar, go hiking, act in local productions, hit the karaoke bars, sing with his dog Captain (the best doggy singer in the universe), and play various yard games such as KanJam, cornhole, “cups”, and Kubb.
South Africa Site Director
Frances is in charge of all volunteers and interns in White River, and acts as their day-to-day main point of contact. For interns, she acts as their main supervisor and creates a customized schedule and training plan with each one. For all participants, she leads an orientation to the program and city, coordinates schedules, and is always available to address any issues that arise.
Frances Hyson, now running the Casterbridge Music Development Academy in Mpumalanga, South Africa, has been involved in many aspects of education for many years: initially, a teacher of children in their first years of school and later as an administrator – as head of a department and as a deputy head of a large private school in White River. For the past 7 years, Frances has been involved in adult education, working with a programme aimed at uplifting and improving the qualifications of drivers employed in a courier company.
Frances is passionate about the community in which she lives and is an active member of the local Rotary Club engaged in many projects to improve the lives of people living in the local communities. She is currently the president of the Rotary Club of White River. She and her husband have lived in White River for 40 years and they have one daughter and two grandchildren also living in the same town.
“Through Performing Arts Abroad, I was able to understand why music matters. From riding an elephant to playing in a jazz band, I don’t think I could ever get an experience like this anywhere else!”
“Volunteering in South Africa was nothing less than one of the best things I have ever done! Something that everyone should experience, go for it because you will not regret it!”
“Being able to travel across the world and experience music and culture that is completely different from mine was extremely eye opening. The people that I met and bonded with are like family now. Interning at the CMDA through PAA was hopefully the first in a long list of experiences that I will have abroad!”
From the blog
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Danielle Toop recently returned from the Dance Volunteer Program in South Africa. The month I spent over can be described as no less than the best month of my life! I was teaching a whole variety of people who are…
Performing Arts Abroad alum Timothy Kraemer is interviewed by GoAbroad.com about his experience music volunteering in South Africa. Check it out! *NOTE: This post has been backdated.
How it Works
The information on this page provides details for a sample group program. Note that every group is different, and we will work with you to cater the experience to your group. To connect with us and begin organizing a program for your group, please follow the “Get Started’ button below and submit an initial questionnaire. We will then contact you to set up a discovery call where we can go into more detail about your group’s needs and what we can offer.