Enjoy the sites and sounds of our Ghana program with this awesome video created by this past summer’s dance participant, Samantha Pulsifer!
This three-week training program gives you the opportunity to learn gyil music (a Ghanaian xylophone), drumming, singing, dancing, batik and tie-dye making, kente weaving, beads making, and basket weaving. You will also participate in drum and xylophone making workshops, cooking, volunteer teaching at nearby schools, and working with women groups, such as market women, church groups and community-based network groups.
The program is led by our site director, Bernard Woma, who is a world-renowned musician and dancer running a music and dance center in Accra. The program also includes excursions to other parts of Ghana, including the Kintampo waterfalls, the slave castles in Cape Coast, tropical beaches, the ancient city of Kumasi, the longest rain forest canopy walk in the world, (Kakum National Park), and the exciting city of Accra, where you will see West Africa’s largest craft and art market (the Art Center), the National Museum, the University of Ghana and a performance at the National Theatre.
“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!”
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 full of life, and home to a wide array of ethnic groups with a range of cultural diversity and music traditions. With an abundance of gold, the country helped give this area of Africa its name: the Gold Coast. It is a country of plains and plateaus covered by rain forests in the west and Lake Volta in the east—one of the largest man-made lakes in the world. Accra, home to over 3 million people, is a bustling and increasingly modern city with many of the amenities you would expect in your own place of residence. The music and dance center is located on the outskirts of the city in a more residential area called Medie with easy access to the city center.
You will stay in dormitory-style accommodations in the dance and music center where you may share a room with several other participants depending on the number enrolled during your session. The dorm is located in the center, near the Director’s home, and most space is shared communally by the family and participants. Meals are shared in an indoor dining room or outside at picnic tables. There is electricity provided by a generator owned by the center to protect against power failures, and running water is supplied by a privately owned borewell. There are modern showers and toilets, and one shower with hot water available.
During excursions to other parts of Ghana, you will stay in hotels or guest houses, included in the cost of the program.
All meals are included in the price of this program, but you will be responsible for purchasing your own bottled drinking water.
Depending on the size of your session’s group, your room may be shared with other international musicians or dancers of the same sex. 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 dance 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. Crossing the Kakum Canopy Walk, you clutch the rope bridge tightly as you try not to look down at the rainforest floor 130 feet below, while monkeys and birds hop around curiously observing you. Merchants in the Accra Art Center loudly call you into their stalls as the vibrant colors beckon you to come closer…
The sights, 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. Dance 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. A multi-day trip around Ghana will leave you exhausted, but also somehow full of energy. 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 dance vocabulary 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 in Accra (ACC). A PAA representative will be waiting for you in the arrivals areas with a sign that has our logo on it. You will be driven to the music center, and will spend the first day unpacking, settling in, and getting to know the family and workers at the center as well as other program participants. 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 join morning and afternoon training session every day, lasting three hours each. You will also spend several days traveling to important cultural sites in Ghana with the group, led by Bernard.
The music and dance 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 himself (who is also an accomplished dancer), in addition to more than a dozen highly trained experienced dancers and musicians from all over Ghana. Guest artists will visit the center to offer courses in batik, tye-dying, kente weaving, drum making, blacksmithing, and other cultural arts of Ghana. The center is also near several historical castles such as the Cape Coast Castle, as well as a number of beautiful Atlantic beaches, which you will visit during your three weeks.
Deb is the primary PAA contact for all participants once they have applied to their programs. She processes applications, conducts applicant interviews, communicates with overseas partners regarding acceptance decisions, orchestrates all pre-departure preparation, supports participants while they are on their programs, and oversees re-entry counseling as she ushers them into joining the ranks of our fabulous PAA alumni.
Deb grew up at a small, independent school surrounded by the languages, music and cultures of students from around the globe. Her passion for exploration has brought her to many out-of-the-way places such as studying variable stars at a Nantucket observatory, flying a small plane over the skies of New England and mapping ancient lava flows in southern Arizona. Without a doubt, though, her favorite place is anywhere in a theater. As an award-winning stage manager, Deb has collaborated on productions throughout the Pioneer Valley in Western Massachusetts and always enjoys challenging and innovative theater. She happily admits to an obsession with all things organizational and considers a trip to the office supply store a totally valid form of therapy.
She has studied and traveled extensively in England and Scotland, has journeyed through parts of France and currently shares her space with cats, humans, and far too many books.
Erin Hardee Patterson
Erin advises everyone who expresses interest in PAA’s programs. She responds to e-mails, answers questions submitted in online forms, makes and receives phone calls about our programs, and communicates with those who begin an application.
Erin Hardee Patterson earned a Bachelor’s of Music in Music Therapy at Berklee College of Music, and her Master’s in Music Therapy from Florida State University. Her professional adventures as a cellist, singer songwriter, board-certified music therapist, event coordinator, admissions professional, project manager, and newly trained birth doula have helped her to live all over the United States – from her home state of Virginia, to New Orleans and Maine, to Tallahassee and Vegas (to name just a few!). In addition to her US travels, a ferocious case of wanderlust inspired Erin to travel to The Netherlands, Canada, Germany, France, and Belgium. (The wanderlust is no joke – this bio was written on a plane!). She enjoys practicing her conversational French and American Sign Language, and has aspirations of one day carrying on conversations in Spanish (hopefully on a beautiful balcony in Spain). Erin is a new transplant to the Northampton, MA area with her firefighter/paramedic spouse Max, their dog Eleanor, and 3 very fat house cats. She is passionate about tiny humans, music, yoga, beautiful bodies of water, succulents, two steppin’, empowering families to have joyous, satisfying births, and being a smiley muppet.
Ghana Site Director
**04.27.18 – We are devastated to announce the passing of our Ghana Site Director and dear friend, Bernard Woma. He was an extraordinary person who touched many lives and dedicated himself to spreading joy through his music and the vibrancy of his cultural heritage. We are so fortunate to partner with Bernard’s Dagara Music Center in Ghana, and look forward to honoring his legacy by continuing to create opportunities for our musicians and dancers to experience true cross cultural collaboration in Ghana.
Thank you, Bernard. You will be truly missed.
Programs in Ghana will continue as planned, and we will update this page with a replacement site director in the coming weeks. Thank you for your patience as we make this transition.
Bernard supports all participants on our Ghana programs, acting as the main point of contact throughout their stay in the country. 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.
Bernard Woma has shared the stage with artists such as Maya Angelou, Yo Yo Ma, and Glen Velez. He has performed for international dignitaries and presidents such as former U.S. president Bill Clinton, Nelson Mandela and Queen Elizabeth II. He was recently honored as the cultural resource person for President Barack Obama’s family when they visited Ghana.
He is a true cultural treasure from Ghana who has toured the world as xylophonist and lead drummer of the National Dance Company of Ghana. Bernard is an extremely dynamic artist and deeply experienced educator. His recent appearances in the US include a performance with New York Philharmonic at the Avery Fisher, Lincoln Center, South Dakota Symphony Orchestra and Minnesota Orchestra, residency with the Ethos Percussion group, performances and teaching at New York’s AXF: African Xylophone Festival, and various universities and colleges.
The performance of his composition “Gyil Nyog Me Na” in the spring of 2006 at Zankel Hall in Carnegie Hall is a testimony of his musicianship. Bernard is the Artistic Director of Saakumu Dance Troupe and the founder and director of the Dagara Music and Arts Center in Accra, Ghana.
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!
“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.”
“I was very satisfied with my travel experience. I found my home in Ghana and I look forward to more traveling experiences there. I enjoyed the activities. I enjoyed the dance classes as well as the singing classes. I fully enjoyed my time in Ghana.”
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…
Mona Sangesland is now an active flutist and teaching artist in the Boston region. She is currently finishing her Master of Music degree at the New England Conservatory. This summer she participated in the Music Volunteering in Costa Rica program. “If you’ve…
There are no sessions of this program currently available for enrollment.