• A Trip (to South Africa) for a Song

    Carnegie Hall, the Rock School Scholarship Fund, and Casterbridge Music Development Academy in South Africa have partnered to create a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for music students ages 13–17. Young songwriters are invited to submit their original songs through Carnegie Hall's online community for young musicians, Musical Exchange, for a chance to be selected as one of six US students who will receive mentoring as they collaborate with young songwriters in South Africa. The project will culminate in a trip to South Africa with their peers to do musical workshops, experience the culture, and perform their original songs at the Casterbridge Music Development Academy Route 40 Music Festival, opening for some of South Africa's biggest rock bands. Applications are due on July 1, so there's still a week to apply. Visit Musical Exchange to learn more.

    We sat down with one of the founders of the Casterbridge Music Development Academy, Paul Bruce-Brand, to find out more about the project.

    Tell us about the Casterbridge Music Development Academy's mission and how it all came about.

    Mike Matthews and I established a nonprofit music-oriented community-based center in the small town of White River, Mpumalanga. We needed guidance, however, and thus undertook a trip to the States together with Craig Hinds and the band Watershed, which has been involved in the program since the early days. Dave Matthews recommended that we have a look at the Music Resource Center in Charlottesville, Virginia, which he has provided with a lot of assistance. This successful model, which is incredibly run by a great team under the management of Sibley Johns, provided tremendous inspiration to us. The Casterbridge Music Development Academy adopted its model, but modified it to suit the South African context by creating music hubs within local communities to make the program accessible to as many rural students as possible.

    Our mission at the CMDA is to provide a platform for local children, especially those from previously disadvantaged backgrounds, to develop their interest in music and in the performing arts, and also to make a positive impact on their lives through music-production experiences. We use music to develop shared values between communities and cultures; and identify and grow talented youthful musicians.

    What are your goals for this collaboration with Carnegie Hall and Rock School Scholarship Fund?

    This collaboration enables students in the townships and cities of South Africa to collaborate with new friends across the globe, and music has an ability to cut straight through barriers such as class, race, and geographical divides. We want the students to experience the crossing of cultures when South African and US students first rehearse and write songs together online and then perform live with their counterparts at the Route 40 Music Festival in White River, South Africa.

    What type of experience should the six finalists anticipate when they come to South Africa? Tell us a little bit about the music scene over there.

    Firstly, the emphasis is on having fun, whilst having the musical and cultural experience of a lifetime. White River borders onto the Kruger National Park, home to the Safari Big Five, and is a beautiful part of the world. We want the US students to experience this, as well as experience the way in which their peers live in South Africa.

    The music scene in South Africa is like the country—very vibrant, diverse, and has always been a reflection of who we are. It ranges from Kwaito music emanating from the townships to world-class jazz musicians such as Miriam Makeba and Hugh Masekela, to Afrikaans music, crossover artists, to South African pop and rock singers. We want the US students, through their interactions, workshops, and performances, to open themselves up to these influences and in turn, share their individual music styles with their African counterparts, thereby broadening their horizons, too.