History of Athlone Academy of Music
The Athlone Academy of Music was initiated in 1994 as a result of the desire and burning zeal by one of the community leaders, Mr Samuel J Jonker, in Athlone, for the teaching and practice of the art of music. Samuel Jonker saw this as a means of following a God given gift to put to use. This he understood as a way of channelling excess energy of the youth in a positive way, thus making a small contribution towards combating gangsterism, whilst at the same time adding to the cultural development of the urban township life.
Subsequent interest from the surrounding community was so great that a feasibility study was conducted by members of the community, which confirmed the need for a music school. The cutbacks in education and teacher retrenchments at the time resulted in the arts being seriously undermined. Schools in disadvantaged areas were particularly hard hit with art and music classes the first to be removed from the curriculum.
Subsequent feasibility studies conducted by the Academy also highlighted the fact that there were many people playing various instruments whilst being unable to read sheet music, which severely compromised their ability to grow and develop as musicians.
The Athlone Academy of Music, despite meagre resources, has sought to address these various needs. The existence of the project is based on the sound premise that it is accessible to all persons irrespective of age, race, or creed. It draws students and enquiries not only from the immediate Athlone area, but also from numerous surrounding communities of previously disadvantaged people – as far a field as Mitchell’s Plain, Hout Bay, Ocean View, Langa, Nyanga, Gugulethu, Khayelitsha, Eerste River and Kuils River, Malmesbury.
Leadership and Administration
The Academy is currently under the leadership of Thurston Brown assisted by Melanie Fryer the Music co-ordinator and heads of the various departments. The administration is done by Yulene January and Patty Hassen.
To identify and develop the musical talents of persons from historically disadvantaged communities and others.
To draw upon the existing core of music teachers to take responsibility for small ensembles in targeted schools.
To work toward the establishment of ensembles, both small and large, as an expression of the musical prowess of the community.