‘I want to create sound that resonates’: Ndlovu choristers enrol at US college to study music

30 June 2021 - 13:13 By Nomahlubi Sonjica
Four students in Limpopo's Ndlovu Youth Choir are enrolled at a college of music in Boston, Massachusetts, US.
Four students in Limpopo's Ndlovu Youth Choir are enrolled at a college of music in Boston, Massachusetts, US.
Image: Ndlovu Youth Choir via Twitter

For Ralf Schmitt, the Ndlovu Youth Choir director, the success of the choir would be meaningless if it did not lead to worthwhile change for the singers, and it is for this reason he has formed a partnership with Berklee College in the US to have four of his choristers enrolled to study music.

“We wanted to partner with Berklee College of Music because it is the world’s best college in terms of contemporary music. We always believe that if we are going to do something it must be world-class,” Schmitt said.

“We want world-class education for our children so we started the partnership by enrolling four of our students for a Berklee online programme. They do a module per semester. They will do two semesters.”

Two singers are studying song writing, one is doing business music and music management and another is studying live recording and mixing. Their classes started on Monday.

I’ve always wanted to pursue a career in music and being able to do that is a blessing for me
Chorister Thuli Ndlovu

With the choir touring extensively before the lockdown, Schmitt came up with the idea of starting a school.

“Before the lockdown, one of our challenges was how do we travel internationally with the children without them missing out on school. The idea was born before lockdown to get them into an online school.

“We’ve appointed a full-time teacher. There are four children in the school.”

He said the school programme was a gradual process and they would add more grades as things progressed.

“It would be irresponsible of us to start the programme too big. We have two pupils in grade 10 and two in grade 11.”

The major challenge for the choir during lockdown is not being able to tour and perform, Schmitt said.

“We built our own television studio in Limpopo and we do a lot of virtual performances around the world. We are making a lot of videos.

“The lockdown has been a blessing in disguise for us. It’s given us an opportunity to catch our breath, strategise and plan, and be ready to hit the road running when the world is back to normal,” Schmitt said.

Thuli Ndlovu, 24, one of the four students enrolled at Berklee, said she was “excited” about the opportunity.

“I’m excited about this new journey. It means a lot to me because I’ve always wanted to pursue a career in music and being able to do that is a blessing for me.”

She is studying music production fundamentals in song writing.

The studying, according to Ndlovu, is “tricky” because of the time difference between SA and the US.

“We are six hours ahead of America so we have to stay up late because the classes are late at night.”

Being a member of the choir has been an “adventure” for Ndlovu because of what she has learnt.

“I’ve learnt how to be humble and kind.”

Her highlights include writing her first song for the choir last year.

“That was a reminder for me that I’m headed towards the right direction.

“I want to able to master song writing. I want to create sound that resonates with everyone.”

Lockdown has given us an opportunity to catch our breath, strategise and plan
Choir director Ralf Schmitt

Sandile Majola, 27, said he was “humbled” by the opportunity to be studying at “the best music college”.

“I am very humbled to have this opportunity. I’ve been doing music for a long time.

“Ralf came up with the great idea to approach Berklee and partner with them and get us enrolled. We did not believe it would happen, but he came back to us and said they had accepted us,” Majola said.

He is studying music and music management.

Majola, who joined the choir when it started in 2009, said he hoped the opportunity to  study at Berklee would open more doors for him.

“I will look for greener pastures. I am very excited and grateful for the opportunity.

“Being part of the choir makes me very proud because we see the excitement and joy when people see us when we travel abroad. Travelling has been fun.”

For Schmitt, it is seeing the choristers progress and prosper that matters most.

“The success of the choir is meaningless if it does not result in meaningful change in the lives of the singers. Our dream is for those who are studying at Berklee to have successful music careers and get skills to equip them to do that.

“With the school it is about giving them the highest quality education while affording them the opportunity to perform locally and abroad. The teacher also helps other children who are not part of the school with their work,” said Schmitt.

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