Six years ago, Royal Birmingham Conservatoire head of strings Louise Lansdown established a partnership with a music centre in Soweto to launch the Arco project, providing in-person and online lessons for South African string students. Here she reflects on the importance of the scheme and on how it has developed
In 2015 I founded the Arco project at Royal Birmingham Conservatoire (RBC) along with my colleagues and students. The raison d’être of the project was to support the string teaching programme at the Morris Isaacson Centre for Music (MICM) in Soweto, South Africa, while simultaneously giving valuable first-hand teaching experience to RBC string students. Arco meets these needs by allowing student teachers from RBC to provide weekly online one-to-one and ensemble lessons for young Sowetan string players (currently aged 7–19), complementing the weekly face-to-face lessons provided by South African MICM teachers.
The ultimate goal of Arco is for this cross-cultural collaboration to create opportunities for learning and growing for all involved. By teaching real students, RBC student teachers can practise the skills learnt during intensive, specialised pedagogy training at the conservatoire. They also learn the many ‘soft skills’ that every good teacher develops: team building, communication and diplomacy. MICM teachers benefit from ongoing teacher training. They attend UK courses, and reflect on their own practice by mentoring RBC student teachers. Similarly, RBC staff get to see the results of their student teacher mentees’ work, and help build a sense of community, shared initiative and empowerment. Most importantly, young string players from Soweto, a region affected by pervasive socio-economic difficulty, are given access to an international community of musicians, and to opportunities not available to them locally…
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