A BRIEF HISTORY OF OSCA
The Opera Studio and Choral Academy at UKZN was launched as a response to the extensive vocal talent emerging from the choral movement in South Africa. These young singers grow up as members of school and community choirs, participating in competitions regionally and nationally, and develop a passion for music and song, which they want to follow professionally – as soloists, choristers, conductors and educators.
OSCA started operating in January 2002. This was made possible by a grant made to the then Natal University Development Fund (now the UKZN Foundation) for a 5 year period (January 2002 – December 2006) by the Atlantic Philanthropies,after which the UKZN is responsible for covering the basic running costs of the institution
As a training and performance facility, OSCA is housed in the Jubilee Centre in Princess Alice Avenue. Phase 1 of the building conversion plan has provided teaching and practising studios, rehearsal space and a basic theatre hall seating an audience of 250. Phase 2 – which would turn this theatre into a professional production space – is still in planning and depends on the success of raising external funding to complete.
OCSA’S CORE OBJECTIVES, ACHIEVEMENTS AND 2007 PLANS
OSCA is a centre dedicated to the professional development of vocal music in South Africa, and to fostering appreciation of vocal music in the wider community. As such OSCA has three core purposes to fulfil.
- Core Purpose : Training and Equipping Students
OSCA is geared to training and equipping students to become versatile and capable professionals in the cultural and educational sectors.
86 students have enrolled at OSCA since it opened its doors in 2002. Of those students who originally entered tertiary education in the diploma stream, 30 have changed to degree status, thus improving their possibilities of future employment. 45 students have successfully graduated. Five OSCA students have continued with Honours degrees and 6 have, or are working on their Masters. 3 of the opera students have continued their studies internationally, another 2 have benefited from the School of Music’s Swedish exchange programme. OSCA students have received numerous prizes and awards – both nationally and internationally.
|Since its inception, OSCA has enjoyed a number of performance highlights. These include a variety of gala evening concerts in Durban, Johannesburg, London and New York; cooperation with Opera Africa on the ”Princess Magogo” production; the Kentridge/Volans production ”The Confessions of Zeno” (both which toured nationally and internationally); production of ”Hansel and Gretel” which ran at the Playhouse for a season; various studio productions over the years; collaboration with top international conductors (e.g. Leslie Dunner); master classes with renowned singers from both the national and international opera scene; ongoing collaboration with the Italian Consul; and a whole array of performances at private and corporate functions.|
OSCA has received a grant from the South African Music Education Trust for a mentoring programme in 2007. This programme will see 4 senior students being mentored by their lecturers to develop them into potential lecturers of the future. The mentoring programme is part of OSCA’s long term succession and development plan to ensure the continuation of quality teaching.
|As from 2007, OSCA will be offering a set of diverse ”gig packages” for performance at external events. These will operate not only as a PR tool for OSCA, its students and UKZN, but also as income generation, and will bring students the benefit of practical experience. OSCA is approaching the corporate sector for assistance with this programme.|
- Core Purpose : Facilitate Access to Study
To date OSCA has granted 70 bursaries – of varying amounts – to students to assist them to further their studies at UKZN. This bursary money came from the AP grant as well as a bursary grant from Candide Trust. OSCA remains active in its endeavours to raise monies for bursaries for its students, as we are committed to maintaining a bursary scheme to ensure that talented young students are not excluded from the opportunity to study due to financial constraints.
This year, OSCA embarked on a school outreach programme to inform potential students about the possibilities of studying at OSCA. This we plan to extend in cooperation with the Department of Education over the next years to incorporate school choral competitions and eisteddfods.
|OSCA continues to re-evaluate its curriculum in terms of students’ needs, and the diversification of skills. For example, the new stage craft module for 2007 will include radio presentation. Here students will develop 20-30 minute programmes around OSCA and its students that can be flighted on community radio programmes to inform the public about musical traditions and showcase students’ work.|
- Core purpose : Supporting the development of local music production
Many of the students at OSCA remain active participants in choirs, thus while they are busy learning themselves, they are passing on expertise to community choirs. OSCA also offers its hall for rehearsal and performance space for local productions and recording concerts.
OSCA has started to network with other tertiary institutions (UCT, Tshwane University of Technology ) with the aim of submitting a cooperative application to the National Lottery to establish a fund for the commission of works by South African composers for voice and music theatre. OSCA fully acknowledges the importance of music in the nation building process, and thus the need for locally produced repertoire to tell our stories in song. As a training institution OSCA aspires to instilling a sense of respect for all musical traditions, and aims to play an active role in marrying tradition and innovation in local music development.
For further information contact Andrew Warburton