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St Mary’s DSG in Pretoria: a place filled with a rich music culture 2014

Music, as with all other disciplines at St Mary's Diocesan School for Girls (DSG) in Pretoria, has always formed an integral part of the cultivation and nurturing of each individual learner at the school.  Not only does music at DSG assist in creating and developing basic skills taught through practice and performance, but also creates opportunities that are akin to the increasing awareness of analytical-creative thinking, co-ordination, self-discipline, fine motor control, and numerous other principles associated with holistic education.  Coupled to the high standards in music tuition, both individually and in group context by well–trained teachers, music education at St Mary’s aspires to instil confidence, pride and commitment in our students through their respective musical endeavours. Additionally, we guide and mentor all those involved to find joy and fulfilment in the art of music.

The Music Department at St Mary’s DSG is housed in the Performing Arts Centre (PAC).  This facility is set apart from the main school buildings and provides an environment that is conducive to numerous cultural activities. It has its own beautiful Concert Hall with a sprung floor, large teaching rooms and twelve practice rooms that are available to all the learners involved in music at the school.  Here we offer a great variety of instrumental tuition, ranging from piano to guitar and from reeds and woodwinds to drums and percussions, as well as vocal training.  All these aspects are taught by highly-qualified and experienced teachers from the surrounding areas.

Our Extra-mural Programme offers a wide variety of musical instruction in practically every instrumental category, ranging from the traditional to orchestral and contemporary, as well as Music Theory lessons. Twenty-six staff members fulfil the task of teaching close to 300 students on a daily basis during and after school hours.

St Mary’s DSG is proud to have a young and vibrant orchestra in which pupils from different levels of playing proficiency can participate in terms of group music performance.  They rehearse and perform under the accomplished baton of Mrs Celia Burger. These young musicians boast with a repertoire spanning different style periods and arrangements to suit the specific combination of instruments found in a typical school orchestra.  Our Music Department also creates a performing platform for smaller groups such as the budding string ensembles.

Phenduka is an African Music Club that was launched at the beginning of 2002.  The Music Department had been privileged to acquire the professional assistance of Mr Mbuso Ndlovu, a distinguished scholar in African music. The girls find this form of musical expression especially exciting, and one is continually astounded at their enthusiasm for this relatively-new art form, especially because it allows free reign for individual eurhythmics and vocal expression.

DSG’s choral tradition is faithfully upheld and driven by no less than three choirs: the Junior School Choir, the St Mary’s Singers, and the Chapel Choir.  Our choirs regularly tour both nationally and internationally.  In August 2004 a combined choir was invited to participate in the 20th Zimriya World Assembly of Choirs in Israel.  The St Mary’s Singers, under the leadership of Mr Christo Burger, have also had successful tours to the USA, Thailand, and Singapore. 

The Chapel Choir, conducted by Mr Mbuso Ndlovu, which mainly consists of the boarders of the school, primarily sings during the Divine Services that are conducted during the week and on Sundays.  The choir is in high demand for performances around Pretoria and it has been invited to perform at the Voortrekker Monument, the Union Buildings, as well as at various church denominations.

The PAC also boasts a well-equipped Music Technology and Recording Studio with all the latest software and sound equipment that are available for use to all pupils and teachers, as well as for the general public at a nominal fee. Mr Jozua Loots, a qualified recording engineer, manages this facility on campus and is also in charge of the recording club that meets weekly.

Several annual events and opportunities for study and performance are devised during the course of the year:

  • Senior School Recitals
  • Junior School Recitals
  • Internal Practical Examinations (Term 1-3)
  • Grades 8-12 Subject Music Recitals (Term 1-3)
  • Open Day (Term 1)
  • Combined Junior & Senior School Concerts
  • Various Choir Festivals (Term 2)
  • Inter-house Music Competition (Term 3)

Every year our pupils successfully complete the ABRSM, TCL and UNISA Practical and Theoretical Examinations in their instruments of choice. The participating learners approach these activities with the deserved seriousness, and on the whole a high pass rate is achieved consistently.

The proud music tradition that had been established by those pioneering nuns and dedicated teachers over the many years since the commencement of St Mary’s DSG, is still as vibrant as ever; in fact, this beautiful and enriching tradition has actually grown and blossomed to new heights of excellence, popularity and enjoyment. The rest of the school has always taken full cognizance of this fact, and they actively support and succour the musical activities in every respect.

Theo van Wyk

Music Centre Manager

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