The Athlone Academy of Music, a non-profit organisation and fully fledged community music school, established in 1994, draws students from the greater Athlone community, Langa, Gugulethu, Khayelitsha, Delft, Mitchells Plain, Retreat, Steenberg, Atlantis and Malmesbury, to name but a few. 2012 was a very exciting year for the Academy in that it partnered with the Music Department at Stellenbosch University and the SA Army Band (Cape Town) in order to provide further study opportunities for advanced students at the Academy. The Youngsfield military base serves as a satellite campus for the university.Students can enrol in the Introductory, Intermediate and Advanced Certificate Courses in Music, offered by the University of Stellenbosch. Felicia Lesch, lecturer and co-ordinator of the Certificate Programmes at the university, brass lecturer Pamela Kierman, head of the Academy, Thurston Brown and Sergeant-Major Jack Simpson, co-ordinator of the satellite campus, met to formalise the partnership and sign the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) in April 2012. Music Co-ordinator and Head of Brass at the Academy, Melanie Fryer, a French horn player in the SA Army Band, feels that this partnership will be of great benefit to students who wish to ultimately enrol for tertiary music studies.
The Academy has close links with a music school in Arcueil on the outskirts of Paris. Renaldo Wales (trumpet) and Melanie Scholtz (vocal), both teachers at the Athlone Academy, travelled to Arcueil to participate in master classes in July last year and there are more exchanges planned for later in 2013.Students at the Athlone Academy enrol for both practical and theoretical examinations offered by external examination bodies such as Trinity Guildhall (London) and UNISA, and many achieved excellent results in the 2012 examinations. Top achievers who passed with very high distinctions (89% and above), were Craig Petersen (Grade 8 trombone), Marcel Adams (Grade 6, trumpet), Craig Nicholas (Grade 4 tuba and clarinet 5) and Stacey Carelse who was placed on the UNISA roll of honour for her outstanding theory results. Petersen, a trombone student of Ryan Kierman, is one of the first Athlone Academy students to benefit from the partnership with the University of Stellenbosch and is enrolled in the Certificate Programme for 2013.
The Academy is planning to secure a building of its own in the future and a fund-raising concert was held in June 2012 at ArtsCape, which featured The University of Stellenbosch Jazz Band and semi-professional Symphonic Wind Ensemble, Windworx. These were conducted by Felicia Lesch and Sean Kierman, respectively, in conjunction with Pinelands Rotary Club in an attempt to raise funds for this initiative.
The Athlone Academy of Music currently operates from Garlandale High School, and offers theory, aural, vocal, piano, string, guitar, woodwind, brass and percussion tuition, as well as opportunities for participation in ensemble playing in the orchestra, jazz band, wind band and string orchestra. Concerts are presented throughout the year and there is a Winter Workshop in the June-July school vacation. The Academy subscribes to the ideals of life-long learning and social transformation through music education and students of all ages are welcome.