Submitted by:  Mmatapa Onica Ramatjela

My name is Mmatapa Onica Ramatjela and I was born and raised in Mamelodi.  In 2004 I joined the Mamelodi Secondary School Music Department (Grade 9), initiated by Doctor Lynnette Pruneau who plays the piano, saxophone, and clarinet.

At the music school, we only had violin, recorder, clarinet, piano, and vocal training.  For the first time in the history of Mamelodi Secondary School, music became the 7th subject in 2006.  After completing my Grade 7 classical voice and Grade 5 theory, Dr Lynnette Pruneau helped me to get into the University of Pretoria Music Department to enroll for a BMus degree.

During our 1st year in 2008, our Music Education module tasked us with having to create any type of music-related business.  God redirected my project and it became a reality.  I recruited one of my friends (Anna Moila) who had taken a gap year that year, and when I pitched the idea to her, she was so motivated to help me sort out the finer details.  We made the time to go to different primary schools in Mamelodi-East, pitching the idea to principals.  We were fortunate enough to receive support from the majority.

When we started our operation we only had our own instruments but soon realised that it was impossible to teach with them alone.

We visited Dr Lynnette, asking her for a few of her instruments.  She gladly gave up about 18 violins of different sizes to use with our group that consisted of about 110 learners from Mamelodi Secondary School.  We called in some of our former friends from the music department to come and assist, and while some declined, some came through for us.  After seeing our dedication, Dr Lynnette introduced us to Berit Uggla, a wonderful lady from Switzerland.  Mrs Uggla raised approximately R20,000 for my initiative.  Dr Lynnette suggested that I use R11,000 to pay for my university tuition and the rest towards instruments such as recorders, violins, and guitars, as well as music stands.

She then arranged a meeting for us with Sir John Ross (late former director of the Unisa Music Foundation), where we got sponsorship for salaries and whatever else we needed to run the project successfully.

We officially became the Mamelodi Music Conservatoire – a name suggested by Kgaugelo Mpyane, one of my good friends.  Through the help of colleagues, such as Dominic Baholo who joined us later in 2016, we were able to register the school as an NPO and even had our first logo designed by the very-talented by Selebogo Rossouw.  We are now proud to be registered both with SARS as well as the Department of Social Development.  We are still receiving sponsorship from the Unisa Music Foundation for which we are very grateful.

We currently offer violin, viola, voice, cello, guitar, recorder, bassoon, trumpet, trombone, and music theory at the school.   Our main focus is on those children who cannot afford expensive music lessons which is why we only charge parents R600 for an entire year of tuition.

Our year plan activities include Unisa Practical and Theory exams, Tshwane Metro Music Festival, Practice Camp, Fundraising Gala Dinner, Pretoria Eisteddfod, workshops by the Unisa Music Foundation, busking at malls, and featuring on our local radio station.  Some of our students are also part of the Unisa Music Foundation orchestra.  Our music students also play at local events such as weddings and funerals to increase our funds.  We are very grateful to have very dedicated parents and a supportive community.

We encourage all our students to study hard and constantly assure them that they can be anything they want.  Some of our former students are now university graduates, making a positive contribution to their communities.