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…
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 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 Directors – Michael and Joyce 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 at the center, across from the family 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 instructors at the music and dance center.
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 from 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.
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.
Joanna makes Performing Arts Abroad tick. She handles many behind-the-scene tasks such as processing applications, reviewing and approving participant tasks, collecting payments, and welcoming newly accepted applicants to the PAA family.
Ever since she was little, Joanna Wright has loved the creative arts. Whether organizing a backyard circus or putting on plays in the living room, she showed an early flair for the dramatic- and also the pragmatic, selling tickets and popcorn to neighbors, and even attempting (unsuccessfully) to charge her parents a penny to watch her plays. While in high school, she balanced AP classes with the responsibilities of being president of the juggling club, and her education at Swarthmore College as a Dance and Theatre Major prepared her both to perform in shows and to write about them. While at Swarthmore, she embarked on a semester-long study abroad program in Kolkata, India, where she studied Kathak (North Indian classical dance), pantomime and Bengali. Joanna continued her international education after college, earning an MFA in Lecoq-based Actor-created Theatre at the London International School of Performing Arts in collaboration with Naropa University. After leaving London, Joanna moved to Austin, Texas and rekindled her love for the circus arts at the Sky Candy Aerial and Circus Studio. Pragmatic as ever, in addition to performing and teaching circus skills such as Aerial Silks, Trapeze, Juggling and Clowning, she was hired as Sky Candy’s Marketing Director, and happily held that position for eight years. Now living in Easthampton, Joanna focuses her creative energy on teaching at SHOW Circus Studio and knitting extremely elaborate scarves. As Administrative Assistant at Performing Arts Abroad, she is thrilled and honored to help young artists find the same joy and inspiration as she did from her international studies.
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!
“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…
|Session||Application Deadline||Start Date||End Date|
|Session 1||Mar 24 2020||May 30 2020||Jun 20 2020|
|Session 2||Apr 28 2020||Jun 27 2020||Jul 18 2020|
Important Summer 2020 Dates
Apply today — How the process works
Submit a simple online application
Schedule a live video interview with a Program Coordinator
Upload program specific materials to an online portal
Receive your aceptance decision and begin your journey!
How the Process Works
To apply, click the “Apply Now” button below. You will fill out a simple initial application online and pay a deposit that is refundable if you are not accepted, and will be applied toward your overall program cost if you are accepted (not an additional fee). At this point, we will ask you to send us the following materials:
- Your resume/CV
- Music video (optional, not used for acceptance decision, but to give instructors sense of current level)
- Your availability in U.S. Eastern Time for a 30 minute video interview with your Program Coordinator.
- Be clear in your interview about your goals for the program. We work hard to prepare your hosts and give them the chance to design an experience that is customized to you as much as possible. To do this, we need a clear picture of who you are and what you want out of your time in Ghana (and don’t want!).
- The Skype interviews are our first face-to-face impression of you. Show up on time, dress well, and be personable.
- If you choose to submit a video, you should highlight the musical style you do best, and should choose a high quality video with a strong opening. Videos with other musicians are fine, as long as you clearly identify yourself and include sufficient solo time. We prefer videos to be uploaded to an online platform such as YouTube to allow us to easily share with the music center instructors.
Participants must be 18 or over the day they begin the program.
GPA / Student Status
There is no GPA requirement for this program, students and non-students are welcome to apply.
There is no foreign language requirement for this program. All training is offered in English.
We give preference to applicants with at least one year of music experience, but we welcome newcomers with no music experience. A video showing your current skill level is helpful for preparing the instructors, but not required for admission to the program.
We are looking for open-minded, flexible applicants who can clearly convey their passion for music and an acute interest in international travel and exposure to new ideas.