[ Vuyani Bonakele Mrwarwaza was one of three students selected for an exchange programme with the Royal College of Music in Stockholm from August 2017 to January 2018. This is Part 3 of his story (lightly edited for clarity and flow). ]
Some of my best moments at the Royal College of Music has got to be my involvement in the Musikant Project (Musician Project), designated for all music teacher students and students in the music education department, who had to organise and perform six concerts at schools from 2-6 October. We were six groups of six musicians each and we had to plan around pop and rock history as well as classical music history. All the groups were under the guidance of Karin Hassle. My group’s name was Group Paus (Crotchet) and the members were:
- Singers — myself and Maja Hovmark
- Piano — Kristina Wiström
- Electric guitar — Jonas Björk
- Bass guitar — Andreas Olsson
- Drum kit — Daniel Caesar
The songs we chose for the concerts were:
- Isn’t she lovely
- Country Roads
- I shot the sheriff
- The partying glass
- Äppelbo gånglåd
- O sole mio
Day 1: All-day rehearsals
We had met Karin the previous Friday to present our concert that we were going to give at schools. We had worked and rehearsed for the previous four weeks, meeting twice per week, and our theme was “Music from different parts of the world”. We then presented the South African Shosholoza as our teaching song. She really liked our performance and gave positive feedback. It was a good dress rehearsal. We enjoyed our programme and the preparations really came to life. We couldn’t wait to perform before a live audience.
Day 2: Pops Academy
The day we had all been waiting for — the moment of truth — as we were about to perform in public for the first time. Our first concert was for the Grade 9A class in the Pops Academy school hall at 9am. The acoustics were really good during our warm ups and instrument tuning and testing. The school kids were overwhelmed and very active in our music quiz which we set for each song we performed. They were very excited when we taught them Shosholoza at the end of our programme and they sang it very well along with us.
We presented our second concert at 12pm for the Grade 7B class. I must give credit to the teachers for the immense support they gave us during the concerts for they made sure that we are warmly welcomed by the learners and that they pay attention. Our last concert of the day were for the Grade 8A class at 2pm.
Day 3: Björkhagens Skola
The situation was a bit different for this day. We had a great time the previous day, but luckily we had only one concert scheduled for day 3, at 12pm for the Grade 6 class. This time we performed in a music class at Björkhagens Skola and not a hall. Our audience was a bit young and we faced challenges of lack of concentration from the learners. They would speak in the middle of the performance, but the teacher did well to instil discipline and they looked very much awake during quiz times.
The performances were also good and the teacher really appreciated having us in their school and applauded us for involving them in the music quiz and especially for teaching them Shosholoza. She assured us not to feel bad about the learners’ behaviour. It’s just that sometimes they are really shy to express their feeling, but deep down in their souls they do appreciate it.
Day 4: Return to Pops Academy
We were very happy and excited to go back to Pops Academy for we loved the acoustics in the school hall. This time around we had only one concert scheduled for the Grade 5B class at 10am. The learners looked very fresh and happy to see us; it was like they had been waiting for us all this time, or maybe the previous classes had already briefed them about our exciting concert. This put a very big smile on my face and I knew that we had to give it our all as the welcoming from the learners was out of this world. Surely we were as good as our last performance and it really went well. This was the youngest audience we had, but the level of participation was really fantastic. They enjoyed our concert and singing Shosholoza along with us. They asked a lot of questions and were so much interested in me and South Africa. I answered their questions as honestly as I could. This was overwhelming and emotional for me, especially when one of the learners said she believes that we are going to be great teachers some day and that they hope to meet us again in future.
Day 5: Lilla Salen, KMH
It had been a great journey of four weeks: preparations and rehearsals and presenting our concerts at different schools. On the last day all the different groups gave a concert together at the Royal College of Music. This time we had only 10 minutes on stage and we had to choose the best two songs in our programme. The audience was even bigger as there were over 60 to about 100 people in Lilla Salen. We chose to perform Isn’t she lovely by Stevie Wonder and O sole mio, which I sang solo. This was the best moment of my life as I sang for the first time in Europe for such a big crowd and I gave my best performance. The audience really enjoyed our performance. They were really supportive and appreciative and this has remained my highlight as an exchange student in Stockholm.
It was really fun and exciting to work with these fantastic individuals. I really respect them, both as musician and teachers. It was an honour to work with them for there was never a dull moment, there was a lot of mutual respect, and the level of professionalism was on a peak. We all took responsibility for putting on a successful concert. It was really awesome and a blessing to work with all of them and I’d like to take this moment and wish them all the best in their studies and future. I would jump at any opportunity to work with them again.