CityLife Arts

Johannesburg Philharmonic Orchestra rolls out educational programme for the youth

 By CityLife Arts writer

The ever-popular Johannesburg Philharmonic Orchestra (JPO) is striving to promote interest in orchestral music among young people through education and community engagement programmes, which are geared to educate, develop skills, and create a greater awareness amongst children and the youth.

 These education and development initiatives have fast been gaining momentum, with a dramatic increase in reach in 2019, only to be interrupted by COVID related restrictions in 2020.   Many members of the community have experienced the benefits of this programme and over the past three years, the orchestra visited 35 schools in various areas in and around Johannesburg, reaching at least 20 000 learners.

To celebrate Youth Month, Joburg City Theatres in partnership with, the City of Johannesburg’s Department of Arts, Culture and Heritage will be collaborating with the JPO to nurture and prepare young music learners to perform alongside the orchestra in various musical genres.   Workshops will run for three hours each and will take place during this week.   There will be 17 learners participating, mostly in the string instrument section.

 The workshops will culminate with a concert at the Soweto Theatre on Saturday 26 June at 7pm.

 Chief Executive and Artistic Director of the JPO, Bongani Tembe says: “A core part of the objectives of the JPO is to contribute to education and development of our youth, and to strengthen community relationships through music”.

Lebogang Ledwaba helps a young violinist during a lesson at TKM

Soweto Theatre Acting General Manager, Makhosazana Hlatshwayo added “The collaboration with the JPO presents exciting and new opportunities for our youth and it is appropriate that this initiative is launched during Youth Month’’.

 Another exciting educational platform being implemented by the JPO is the EduVideo Project, which arose as a result of Covid-19, when the orchestra was unable to go to schools and wanted to ‘give something back’.   The initiative has been endorsed by the Gauteng Department of Education.   Mr Charles Sedimo, Senior Education Specialist from the Department said, “Our senior phase learners (Grades 7 – 9) and intermediate phase (Grades 3 – 6) are taught music during Creative Arts and Life Skills classes, which aim to expose learners to different career opportunities in the arts. The JPO music programme assists with practicality in music because learners can see some of the orchestral instruments for the first time and experience the sound they produce, as well as get to understand how instruments are grouped into families in the orchestra.  Some educators within our schools have the passion for music but lack the knowledge of how to go about teaching it and this programme is of a great assistance to them”.

 The education video was filmed at Mdluli Safari Lodge in the Kruger National Park and features 30 musicians from the JPO, with Jeremy Silver as conductor and Siphokazi Maphumulo as the narrator. The music pieces were chosen to demonstrate the variety and depth of orchestral instruments – sound, shape, the way they are played and their function in the orchestra.    The video is aimed at primary school learners but is also suitable for high school learners and is freely available to all schools who wish to use it for their school programmes. To access the video link – email

A captivated audience

 Other projects that are implemented by the JPO include the regular EduConcerts.  A reduced orchestra of about 24 musicians visits schools each week and presents an exciting musical story of “Peter and the Wolf” by Sergei Prokofiev. The show is aimed at primary school learners and earned an Award from the Department of Education in 2019.   The presentation of this live show is subject to COVID regulations.

 The JPO has also established a music centre at the St Matthew’s Catholic School in Soweto.   This project provides an opportunity for children to participate in extra mural activities and children from Grades 2 – 12 participate every Saturday morning.  The project relies on sponsorship to continue to provide the various musical instruments required for the children, as well as to pay the tutors.     In 2020, the JPO made a long-term commitment to the project which includes the donation of music and theory books, music stands and the sponsoring of tutors. 

 Lastly, another high-level initiative of the JPO is the Fellowship Programme which is targeted at exceptionally talented South African music students who are studying overseas and are on the cusp of a stellar career.  

 About the JPO

Johannesburg Philharmonic Orchestra (JPO) is a not-for-profit and a public benefit organization which was originally formed in May 2000 following the demise of the National Symphony Orchestra.  The JPO went into business rescue in 2012, however, it was relaunched in August 2017 with a revitalised vision, a new brand identity and a diverse board of directors which is comprised of captains of industry and credible community leaders. The board is chaired by former Deputy Chief Justice, Dikgang Moseneke, with arts manager and Juilliard School trained singer, Bongani Tembe, as the Chief Executive and Artistic Director. The re-launch of the JPO affirmed the organisation’s aspiration to be internationally recognised for artistic excellence, innovation, education initiatives and community engagement programmes.

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