Music, Friendship – and Safari! – in Botswana

Music instructor for Middle and Upper Schools, Avenues: The World School

As part of Global Journeys, the Avenues Upper Division music department had the great fortune of making a trip to Botswana over spring break. Ten upper grades musicians (Apryl Adames, Avalon Scarola, Eliana Ben-Dov, Etta Yeston, Didi Jin, Fatima Ptacek, Graham Hirsch, Kavin Chada, Marley Perez and Silas Lavino) and three teachers (Mr. Dolan, Mr. Schartz and Ms. Rosenberger) made the 15-hour flight for a 10-day musical collaboration with the world-class student marimba band of the Maru-a-Pula school in Gabarone, Botswana.

Upper grades students and teachers in Botswana.

Upper grades students and teachers in Botswana.

Students and teachers stayed on the campus of Maru-a-Pula (MaP), making fast friends and forging lasting relationships with their counterparts at the prestigious boarding school, including MaP music director Celine Matthee. Avenues students shadowed their MaP buddies in their morning classes, hung out and played basketball and soccer in the afternoons and then practiced in the music rooms each day on collaborative pieces arranged by Laone Thekiso (director of MaP’s marimba band) in conjunction with Avenues music teachers Mr. Schartz and Mr. Dolan. Their hard work culminated in a collaborative concert at the Maitisong Theater on campus to standing ovations.

Practicing collaborative pieces in the MaP music rooms.

Practicing collaborative pieces.

Jamming with MaP buddies.

Jamming with MaP buddies.

The students also enjoyed a weekend journey to the Madikwe Game Reserve in South Africa, where they stayed at an electricity-free eco-lodge, making daily game drives on which they spotted elephants, giraffes, rhinos and lions.

Taking in nature's majesty at the Madikwe Game Reserve.

Taking in nature’s majesty at the Madikwe Game Reserve.

Prior to the trip the student musicians organized a successful bake sale, fencing match (thank you to Melanie Longenbach) and Battle of the Bands at which more than $3,000 was raised to benefit MaP’s Orphan and Vulnerable Children Scholarship Fund. The fund supplies tuition to orphaned children to attend Maru-a-Pula, and is supported by the MaP marimba band itself on its biennial American music tours.

Safari, music, giving and friendship added up to an incredible Global Journeys program that hopefully will become an Avenues musical tradition!