Wits Music is one of South Africa’s most innovative higher education music departments, preparing students for diverse careers in music in the contemporary world, and seeks to encourage both creative practice and critical inquiry (the making of music and thinking about it).
Unique at Wits Music, our students are not streamed into jazz, classical, African music, or music technology degrees. We offer an integrated Bachelor of Music (BMus) degree, providing students with a rigorous training in the disciplines of the music profession, and an opportunity to experience and learn from multiple traditions of music. In the Wits BMus, for example, a classical flautist will also do jazz theory and film music composition, and a musical theatre voice student learn orchestral arranging and South African music history.
An integrated BMus
The thinking informing our integrated BMus is both pragmatic and philosophical. Rather than channel young students’ learning into a single area of knowledge and tradition of music at the outset of their studies, the Wits BMus is an exploratory degree: it provides students with an environment in which to experience new and different domains and, by the time they graduate, with sufficient know-how to make an informed decision about which fields of music they wish to pursue in the world of work. Such multi-level musical exposure, we believe, better prepares students for success in a twenty-first-century music workplace that is plural and fragmented, and often characterised by portfolio careers demanding a range of skills and knowledge. Exposing students to multiple musics and ways of thinking, we would argue, also equips them to better navigate the diverse world in which we live.
Wits Music also distinguishes itself by interacting with the other arts, as the only university music department in Africa to be part of a School of Arts that includes television & film, dramatic arts, digital arts, fine arts, and arts management departments. By collaborating with students from the rest of the School, music students prepare themselves for careers in a high-tech world in which the media and arts are increasingly converging. The Wits BMus thus offers students opportunities to explore beyond music, enriching their music knowledge with cross-disciplinary engagement.
For these reasons, and more, the Wits BMus was recently described as “perhaps the most adventurous of music qualifications currently on offer in South Africa”.
 Martina Viljoen, “A critique of the music school as a conservative system of music production”, Muziki, 11/2 (2014): 125.
Studying music in Johannesburg
Music is a multi-billion-rand industry in South Africa, and with Johannesburg being the centre of Africa’s creative industries and Wits University situated in the heart of the City of Joburg, it makes sense to study music in Africa’s music and economic capital.
As a small music department, limiting our first-year intake to 30 students, Wits Music allows for a more student-centered, individualised learning environment, which offers academic mentoring often not available at larger institutions. Our 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; and graduate with a relevant, diverse and rigorous training.