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DMS ASKS “NOW WHAT?” (article first published : 2000-11-29)

When The Durban Music School was closed in 1997, the retrenched teachers were thrown an unexpected lifeline with the former KZN Lotto-funded Operation Jumpstart coming to their rescue and offering to buy a building for the music school.

During negotiations for a suitable place, the school continued to operate thanks to a temporary home offered by Durban Boys’ High School. This succeeded in keeping the original teaching staff together who, by co-operating with various schools in the province, were able to continue to offer services to all the education department’s subject pupils.

The Durban Music School’s new home, the renovated Central United Church Building in St Andrew’s Street, is virtually complete. Its location is expected to contribute to the upgrading of the Albert Park area while offering comparatively easy access for pupils.

However, the funding from Operation Jumpstart ends with the renovation of the building and the task now facing the Durban Music School is to raise money to establish a trust fund in order to run it.

Despite the organised chaos of building - scaffolding, workmen, paint tins, wheelbarrows and piles of sand - the grace and potential of this three-storied colonial-styled building with its impressive wooden staircase still shines through. “At the end of the day, we will have a beautiful building,” says chairman of the DMS management committee Werner Dannewitz ducking under an overhead plank. “But unless we have the funds to run the school, I might as well close the front door and throw away the key!

“KZN has a fine professional orchestra, the only full-time orchestra left in South Africa. KZN also saw the birth of the Steel Drum and Field Band Foundations in South Africa and the province has the best youth wind band. And now it is starting a music school. We believe that the Durban Metro and the department of education must come on board and back us up.”

While most of the students at the school have their fees paid by their parents, there are many whose families simply do not have the financial means to pay for tuition. This goes for numerous highly talented children in the immediate area.

The management committee has appealed to the department of education for the use of the musical instruments which were available to them before the school’s closure in 1997. However, the public sector is invited to play a pro-active role in the future of the DMS.

“Wouldn’t it be a nice idea if members of the more affluent community of Durban adopted one student per year?” asks Werner. “We could handle the screening process and recommend suitable candidates to whoever wants to adopt a student. Another way of becoming involved would be to adopt an instrument. We have so many keen young players from Umlazi and KwaMashu coming to play with us and they deserve to work on better instruments.”

The sponsoring of an instrument could vary from R2,000 for a clarinet or R3,500 for a trumpet to between R8,000 and R9,000 for a trombone. A standard model sax is about R6,500 while the price of a tuba is between R12,000 and R14,000 and a set of tympani could cost between R30,000 and R40,000. The instruments could be engraved with the individual or corporate donor’s name.

“We see ourselves as the nursery slopes,” says Werner. “We are working closely with the University of Natal Durban’s music department. Over the last two years, most of the members of the KZN Youth Wind Band trained at the Durban Music School and we have seven cadets in the KZN Philharmonic.”

The DMS is a non-profit organisation managed by a committee of trustees and Bongani Tembe, director of the KZN Philharmonic, is the school’s patron. Yearly running costs are expected to be in the region of R250,000. More details from Werner Dannewitz on (031) 201-7096.

On November 30 at 18h00, the KZN Youth Wind Band will give a free community Goodwill Christmas Concert at Diakonia, 20 St Andrews Street, as part of its commitment to upgrade the area.




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