ARCO Soweto

In 2015 ARCO Soweto began as an innovative string teaching alliance between the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire (RBC) and Morris Isaacson Centre for Music (MICM) based in Soweto, Johannesburg.

Team teaching has been central to ARCO Soweto from the beginning, with teachers on the ground delivering a 30-minute lesson each week, supported by an additional 30-minute weekly online lesson delivered by RBC student teachers and staff. The very first cohort of Sowetan students consisted of 12 violinists and 6 cellists, later expanding to add violists and bassists.

MICM/Arco Partnership

The MICM Arco partnership has three main facets, the first to provide MICM students with additional online lessons that take place every week using zoom.  MICM has a dedicated class room with the tech equipment that enables this exchange to be as enlivened as possible. The other facets are in person teaching that usually take place over school holidays with some Arco teachers travelling from the UK to Soweto to teach face to face. Such collaborations have resulted in our learners being part of prestigious festivals such as the Stellenbosch International Chamber Music Festival where our learners participated for the past two years. Last but not least is the sharing of resources. Over the years, Arco has contributed many resources such as valuable instruments, bows, sheet music, etc. Some of our learners have auditioned in England due to the contacts of Arco and have become students in prestigious schools and conservatoires.

Daliwonga Tshangela, Director of Music, MICM

Since 2021 ARCO has branched out to include weekly woodwind and brass lessons, including flute, saxophone, trumpet, trombone and horn. In addition, ARCO also provided weekly vocal lessons for gifted mezzo soprano Buhle Nebulane. 

The ARCO online teaching provision has included 1:1 instrumental lessons for all of the instruments listed above for students between the ages of 6 and 19. In addition ARCO has conducted performance and scale classes, chamber music coaching, workshops, Q & A’s with notable role performers and creators around the world and even live-streamed student concerts.

ARCO collected donations of over forty instruments and cases including violins, violas, cellos and double basses donated by luthiers, retailers and private donors from across the UK, which arrived in Soweto in March 2018. The list donors includes Cardiff Violins, Tim Toft Violins, Moseley Violins, Thwaites, Bishop Instruments, Ayres Violins and Paul Evans. The Sound Post later donated around 30 bows. Students on the ARCO Project programme will have this instrument to play on until they have completed their schooling.