Sarah Barnaby was a participant on PAA’s Summer Music and Cultural Immersion in Ghana program. To be put in touch with Sarah to learn more about her experience and see if this program is a good fit for you, please…
Receive state of the art training in multiple West African musical forms, including drumming, Ghanaian xylophone, and other instruments. You will be working and living at a music center on the outskirts of Accra, the capital city. In addition to small group and one-on-one instruction, you may have the opportunity to lead workshops in music styles from your home country, as well as visit local communities to experience the power of performance in West African culture. There will be plenty of time to explore Ghana, including the historic transatlantic slave trade castles of nearby Cape Coast and the ancient city of Kumasi. Housing and all meals are included, as well as workshops in traditional handicrafts such as tie-dye, batik, weaving, and kente cloth making. The minimum duration for this training program is one week, and the maximum will depend on the visa regulations based on your nationality.
“I could not be happier with my experience in Ghana. It wasn’t always easy and definitely required me to be open to new things and personal growth, but I learned so much and met amazing people. I would highly recommend this program to anyone.”
Performing Arts Points of Interest
Alliance Française d’Accra
The Alliance Française d’Accra is a cultural center aimed at preserving and educating the public on French language and Franco-Ghanaian culture. The center offers dance performances as well as art exhibits. The center also offers French courses from beginner to specialized advanced levels. The alliance organizes 5 festivals a year: the Francophonie Festival, Live in Accra Jazz Festival, Gastronomy Festival, Future Fest Electronic Music Festival, and the Accra Hip Hop Week.
Close to the University of Ghana, Chez Afrique is a restaurant that hosts local bands, DJs, and other artists daily. Music ranges from jazz, highlife, reggae, and “random” mixes.
+233 Jazz Bar
Named after the Ghanaian area code, +233 Jazz Bar is local bar that hosts bands six days a week. The bar is two stories and has outside seating as well. Music styles include jazz, blues, highlife, and, rarely, some hip hop. This is a great place to listen to live music, meet locals, and try Ghanaian cuisine.
PAA Home Base
Our Ghana programs are based at the Dagara Music Center (DMC) in the village of Medie just outside the capital city of Accra. The family of our Site Director – Bernard Woma – will greet you warmly and welcome you as a member of the family during your stay. You will be provided all meals during your program, and the center has its own generator and water tank to protect against power and plumbing outages. Medie is an incredibly diverse area, and the center is just down the street from a Pentecostal church, a Krishna temple, a Catholic church and a bar! Public transportation will get you from the center to downtown Accra where you can explore a wide variety of markets and performance venues.
About the Location
Ghana is bursting with life, and home to a variety of ethnic groups with a wide range of cultural diversity. Blessed with extraordinary amounts of gold, the country helped give this area of Africa its name: the Gold Coast. Ghana is a land of plains and low plateaus covered by rain forests in the west and Lake Volta to the east—one of the world’s largest man-made lakes. Accra is home to over 3 million Ghanaians, a bustling and increasingly modern city with many of the amenities you would expect in your own place of residence.
The music center is located on the outskirts of the city in a residential area called Medie with easy access to the city center, as well as nearby rural areas where you will be able to experience village life. Medie has a diverse population of residents from all parts of the country, as well as bordering countries. Within several blocks of the music center is a Pentecostal Church, a Krishna Temple, a bar, and a Catholic Church!
The music center is a walled compound with a large family home in the middle. The center is run by the legendary Ghanaian percussionist Bernard Woma and his family, who reside in the home. The center has its own generator as a backup when power outages occur in Accra, and a water well and tower in case of water shortages. Facilities include a wing of dormitory style accommodations, a large gazebo for music and dance classes, an expansive concrete stage for rehearsals and performances, an open-air covered dining area with picnic tables, and a handicraft center with looms and other tools for weaving, tie-dyeing, and other traditional arts and crafts.
All components of your accommodations are included on the program, including shared housing in dormitory style rooms with bunk beds, shared bathrooms (Western-style flush toilets and overhead showers), running water and electricity, and meals. These accommodations are located within the walls of the music center, so no travel to the site is necessary! Your meals will be cooked by the family who runs the center, and you will be invited to share meals with the family. There is also a bus stop near the center for easy access to the center of Accra.
Depending on when you decide to travel, your room may be shared with another international musician or dancer of the same sex. Outside of our summer sessions, it is common to only have one PAA participant on site at a time, while during the summer we usually have a handful of participants joining a larger group of a dozen or more.
A Day in the Life
The Participant Experience
Sitting on the front porch of the Woma family home in the middle of the music center, you hear the sounds of children laughing and playing. A warm breeze brings the smells of fires cooking the evening meal, and whips some dust into the air.
The sounds and smells of Ghana are difficult to forget, and the hospitality you experience from your hosts will live in your memory forever. Your days will be spent in morning and afternoon training sessions with lunch in the middle, and your evenings will be filled with laughter and storytelling, as you watch (and sometimes participate in!) the cooking of the meal for the center’s guests. Music is only the beginning of what you will learn during your time in Ghana, as you will have a chance to try your hand at a wide variety of handicrafts and other cultural art-forms. By the time your last day rolls around, you will not want to leave, but we hope you bring the lessons you learn and the musical styles you gain back to your community at home, and share a little piece of Ghana with your friends and family.
You will book your flight to arrive at Kotoka International Airport (ACC) in Accra. A PAA representative will be waiting for you in the arrivals areas with a sign that has your name and our logo on it. You will be driven to the dance center, and will spend the first day unpacking, settling in, and getting to know the family and workers at the center. The following day will include an orientation to Accra, day to day life in Medie where the center is located, health and safety, and other details relating to your specific program.
A Typical Day
For your remaining time at the center, you will be invited to a morning and afternoon training session every day, lasting three hours each. With the rest of your free time, you can explore the charming small town of Medie, attend performances in Accra, and travel to landmarks throughout the country with travel recommendations made by PAA representatives at the music center.
The music center where you will be training was founded over 10 years ago by Bernard Woma, one of the most famous players of the Dagara gyil, a xylophone native to the northwest region of Ghana. You will receive instruction directly from this master musician and dancer himself (when he is at the center and not touring internationally), as well as more than a dozen highly trained experienced musicians from all over Ghana. Guest artists visit frequently to offer courses in batik, tie-dying, kente weaving, drum making, and blacksmithing. The center is also near several historical castles such as the Cape Coast Castle, as well as a number of beautiful Atlantic beaches.
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.
Ghana Co-Site Director
Michael supports all participants on our Ghana programs, acting as the main point of contact throughout their stay in the country, along with the Co-Site Director, Joyce. He coordinates airport pickup, arranges housing, leads cultural excursions, oversees a talented team of instructors (and teaches himself on some programs), and manages the 24-hour onsite emergency phone.
Michael Woma graduated from Amasaman Senior High School in 2013 where he studied visual and performing arts.
Because of his ability to interact well with people from diverse backgrounds and his ability to be highly adaptable to different working conditions, he was employed by his uncle, Bernard Woma, to work for him at the Dagara Music and Art Center as the Operation and Logistics Manager in 2014. He has since served as a liaison between the DMC director and visiting participants for an average of 10 yearly study abroad programs hosted by the DMC. Since Bernard’s passing, Michael has stepped into the role of interim Site Director where he continues to manage and supervise all of the DMC’s study abroad programs.
Michael is also passionate about being with people who are concerned and interested in developing their communities. In 2015 he became a member of the UK charity organization, Move The World. Alongside his work for the DMC, he has helped organize, execute, and supervise community development programs on the ground in Medie, Ghana for Move the World. He founded Move The World Quiz, a monthly program in local schools that encourages academic achievement through fun, creative quiz games.
Michael looks forward to working with all future PAA participants at the DMC!
Ghana Co-Site Director
Joyce supports all participants on our Ghana programs, acting as the main point of contact throughout their stay in the country, along with the Co-Site Director, Michael. She coordinates airport pickup, arranges housing, leads cultural excursions, oversees a talented team of instructors (and teaches herself on some programs), and manages the 24-hour onsite emergency phone.
Joyce Woma was born on 25th October 1989. She joined the renowned Saakumu Dance Troupe in 2011. After joining Saakumu, within a few years Joyce rose to be one of the lead dancers. During that time Joyce learned and mastered dances from across Ghana. In 2014 Joyce traveled to the U.S. for three years, where she taught and performed at University. Today, Joyce is currently co-leading Saakumu while filling her role as lead dance teacher at DMC, where she was trained by founder Bernard Woma at the age of 11. These two organizations are leading cultural music teaching and performance, and Joyce is at the forefront of both.
I learned so much, not only art, music and dance, but important life lessons. Everyone was so giving and accommodating. The teachers were really thorough with dancing instructions…I learned how to make Adinkra prints, batik, calabash bowl and jewelry art, and basket weaving. I had the most amazing and personal experience!
“During these three weeks, I learned more about music than I had in three years of University. The experience was not just one of great significance and growth, but one that I cannot wait to repeat!”
“I was blown away with the musicianship and talent of the instructors. Not only were they amazing performers, but they were incredible teachers as well.”
From the blog
In July 2014, I joined PAA Ghana Site Director Bernard Woma and his family at the Dagara Music Centre in Ghana. After more than a day of journeying from the UK, I saw Bernard waiting at Accra airport with a…
Enjoy the sites and sounds of our Ghana program with this awesome video created by this past summer’s dance participant, Samantha Pulsifer!
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.