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Founder of the Arco project Louise Lansdown and double bass student Njabulo Nxumalo speak to online editor Davina Shum about the long-distance teaching partnership between Royal Birmingham Conservatoire and the Morris Isaacson Centre for Music in Soweto, South Africa. Louise shares her vision for the project, as well as the challenges and importance of the scheme, while 21-year-old Njabulo shares his first-hand experiences of growing up with the project, from starting on the violin, to winning competitions and studying double bass at Stellenbosch University.

Writing in The Strad‘s February 2022 feature ’Evolution of a Partnership’, Louise states, ’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, speacialised pedagogy training at the conservatoire.

’MICM teachers benefit from ongoing teacher training. They attend UK courses, and reflect on their own practice by mentoring RBC student teachers… 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 opportunites not available to them locally.’