Thursday, March 4, 2021

Mogami’s music school breaks new ground

Akhutleleng Mogami has a passion to both play and teach music. Mogami’s journey to be a musician did not seem likely at the beginning of her life.
Growing up, she was asthmatic and was not allowed to do any sports at school or be in the school choir.
As she grew older, the asthma subsided and her time at boarding school away from the watchful eye of her mother saw her engaging in the forbidden activities. And she has not looked back since then.
“My mother did not want me to sing or do sports because I’d lose breath. Even the teachers did not want to entertain it. You know how teachers would avoid students who are asthmatic? They’d say, ‘Ijo. Yo ke yo hupelang.’ But I outgrew the asthma and started doing music and sports. I have always been an energetic person. I think I was locked-in for quite some time.”
She says that when she went to do her diploma in secondary teaching at Molepolole College of Education she majored in Setswana and took music as a minor. At the time music teachers were scarce, so her first appointment was as a music teacher.
“I first taught in Kumakwane and then Ledumang. Music at government schools is treated as just any other subject and that’s how the students view it. It’s good to teach kids who are passionate about it so it was frustrating for me and when I was in Kumakwane there were a lot of talented students. And usually students, who are really talented in the arts don’t do very well academically. When they fail, the system just throws them off like and they don’t make it to senior school,” she says.
That is when she decided that one day she would open a school to cater for artists because our education system is too academic.
Mogami has since started Kingdom Arts Academy, a music school that teaches grade 1 to grade 3 of music.
“Music goes from grade 1 to grade 8 so I only teach the first 3 grades. The students write 2 exams a year and are awarded certificates from Trinity College London because we use the syllabus from there,” she says, adding that she is not yet accredited by BOTA.
“It’s taking time to get the accreditation because BOTA has not done something like it before,” Mogami says. “After the accreditation that’s when they’ll be able to award certificates from the school.”
She is quick to point out that it is more ideal to get a certificate from Trinity College because it is a renowned music school known worldwide.
Her goal is to raise money so that she can get children from disadvantaged communities into her school.
“I’ve started now with students whose parents can afford it, but I’m working on a project where I’m recruiting people to sponsor children who are from disadvantaged communities because every student needs an instrument to practice at home. But in the end it’s going to be a fully fledged School of Excellence boarding school in such a way that when a child is identified from primary school as an artist they can be taken to the school and the focus will be on the performing arts, but of course they’ll do other subjects like English and Math.”
Mogami started the venture with two odds stacked against her. First was the problem of starting a business which obviously does not have a guaranteed income at the end of the month. Secondly was the problem of venturing into music in a country that doesn’t appreciate the arts.
“For me it is the fulfillment and like I told you I’m a performer and I can be called to perform at any time of the week and any day any time. I go for workshops. I just came back from Durban on Monday.
“When I was at work I couldn’t do those things. I had to sneak out. If workshop opportunities came up or if I had to go for camp for a week and asked for leave it was very difficult. For me it is about what I like doing and what I enjoy. So of course I knew there’d be challenges when I start, but I have told myself that I’ll stand for those and one day I’ll reach my dream. I knew if I don’t start I’d never go anywhere and I couldn’t say I’ll wait till I have made millions to start. How would I have accumulated millions? There are no millions in government especially when you are a teacher.”
On how she got into performing music, she says it was while doing her BA in Music at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. Her programme was too academic and when she approached TCM to transfer her to the Jazz programme which was more practical, they refused and said that they couldn’t sponsor her for two diplomas.
“I tried telling them it wasn’t about that but about acquiring a skill that I can teach when I got home.”
She then bought a saxophone and got a book from the library and taught herself how to play.
She now performs with the Metrophones, a talented 12-piece band that is making waves in the local music fraternity.

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