How music is transforming children’s lives in Uganda

Nearly 10 years ago, airline pilot Jim Trott founded the charity, Brass for Africa, having seen how children in an orphanage in Uganda discovered self-confidence and pride from playing together in their brass band.

To date, the charity has delivered 800 brass instruments to children in Uganda and Liberia who are living in extreme poverty (living either as street children or in a slum), as well as children living in orphanages and rehabilitation centres, living with physical or mental disability, or coping with HIV/AIDS.

The children have two training sessions a week, which include music theory, and are recorded to let them hear their improvement along the way. The bands have at least three performances a year, which not only serve as goals for the children to work towards, but also allow them to show the local communities their growth and talent.

Brass for Africa recently introduced a custom-made monitoring and evaluation system to measure the impact of its work on eight key attributes associated with learning music. These are self-confidence, resilience, leadership skills, problem-solving, grit and perseverance, concentration, teamwork, and communication. The improvements in these areas that access to music has afforded the children in the programmes are significant.

29-year-old Oxford graduate Lizzie Burrowes has been involved with the charity as a volunteer who travelled to Uganda as a music education advisor. “Brass for Africa is about empowerment,” she says. “It’s not about people coming in to save other people. The key message there is that people are empowered with skills to then live their lives as they choose, so we can be a part of nurturing those skills and helping them to develop in that way.”

One example is Ronald Kabuye. Losing both his parents at an early age, he ended up living on the streets and then in an orphanage. But he had been inspired by seeing a marching band when he was five, and was able to learn trombone at the orphanage with support from Brass for Africa. He says: “Through Brass for Africa I learned how to read music and the discipline of music. At first I was playing to just have fun, not to inspire, not to help anyone, not to change anything, just to play and have fun. But Brass for Africa made me realise that I could play to make a difference.”

The trombone has inspired Ronald to start sharing his story and his music with other children through teaching. “I wanted to give them hope that this is not the end and what I have seen from the kids is that they have now become good people, with a good attitude towards life and that gives me joy.”

Brass for Africa:

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