Wits Music is one of South Africa’s most innovative higher education music departments, preparing students for a music career in the twenty-first century.
Music is a multi-billion-rand industry in South Africa, and with Johannesburg being the centre of Africa’s creative industries, including the South African (and African) music industry and Wits University situated in the heart of the City of Joburg, it makes sense to study music here in Africa’s music and economic capital.
Left: The drawdio project 3: Prof Christo Doherty as photographer!
Wits Music distinguishes itself by interacting with the other arts, as the only university music department in Africa to be part of a School of Arts including television & film, dramatic arts, digital arts, fine arts, and arts and culture management divisions. By collaborating with students from the rest of the School, preparing themselves for careers in a high-tech world, in which the media and arts are increasingly converging, students are provided with a thorough training in the disciplines of the music profession, while also offering them opportunities to explore beyond music.
Also unique at Wits Music, our students are not “streamed” into jazz, classical or African music degrees. This presents a great opportunity for students who are willing to experience and learn other kinds of music. We offer a general Bachelor of Music (BMus) degree in which, for example, a classical clarinettist will also do jazz theory and music production, or a musical theatre voice student will learn classical counterpoint and bebop history. We believe that learning is enriched in cross-disciplinary engagement and that this results in a widening outlook of skills and knowledge which will ultimately benefit graduates’ careers, and distinguish Wits musicians.
As a small music department, limiting our first year intake to 30 students, Wits Music allows for a more student-centred, individualised learning environment, which offers academic mentoring not available at larger institutions.
Wits Music students come from a wide variety of backgrounds, reflecting our society and world; they study with performers, composers, and thinkers at the forefront of their fields, graduating with relevant, diverse and rigorous training. Thus, they have the opportunity to work in several professional contexts.
Johannesburg is the centre of the continent’s media industry, and the related broadcasting and film industries provide significant working opportunities for musicians. Also, the world’s major multinational music companies have their African headquarters in Johannesburg, and the city is home to many of the country’s smaller independent labels and studios.
Live performance opportunities in Johannesburg abound. The city has the biggest and best equipped music theatre venues. (The Joburg Theatre, just up the road from Wits, Montecasino’s Teatro and Gold Reef City’s Lyric Theatre), supporting a thriving culture of musicals. A short trip from Wits takes one to the Newtown Cultural Precinct, which houses several of Johannesburg’s landmark theatre and music venues, with our performance and composition staff regularly performing here. Wits’ Linder Auditorium is home to the Johannesburg Philharmonic Orchestra (JPO). Students receive free tickets to attend the weekly symphony concerts and students studying orchestral instruments performing with the JPO Academy Orchestra, which has a partnership with Wits Music. One of the country’s leading choirs, the Gauteng Choristers, with which Wits also has a partnership, is based on campus. Many major international pop and jazz stars give concerts on campus, as well in Johannesburg’s large arenas, and some present workshops to students. Additionally many students join the Wits Choir.
Within 2kms of Wits there are 10 major performance venues and complexes.Wits itself boasts The Linder Auditorium (symphony hall), Great Hall, and Atrium (chamber music), and Wits Theatre complex (with four venues). Near Wits are the Joburg Theatre complex, and Alexander Theatre (experimental and alternative music), Bassline (popular music and jazz), Kippies (jazz), the Market Theatre complex, Northwards House (chamber music). There are numerous smaller live music venues too. No other university on the continent is so richly musically positioned.
Many Wits Music students take advantage of Johannesburg’s music life: playing gigs and teaching, earning money to support their studies, networking and gaining first hand experience in the professional world in which they’ll make their careers.
In recent years Wits music students have formed part of the rising indie group Zebra and Giraffe, sung in the gospel collective Joyous Celebration, performed in the band for the hit musical Dreamgirls, and interned at the SABC Music Library.
If Jazz is your music of choice, regular gigs are performed by students and staff at the Zoo Lake Bowls Club. For further information, visit http://blog.southafrica.net/blog/entry/if-jazz-is-your-thing?