Youngsters trained to play the violin

When Titia Blake, a professional performing artist, moved to Noordhoek she saw a gap to train youngsters to do what she does – play the violin.

She has around 30 students from Masiphumelele and surrounds, and the members of the performing group, named Palm Stringlets, between four and 10 young people.

“My professional group is Palm Strings and the juniors are therefore called Palm Stringlets. Bishops High asked me to teach their outreach programme and after settling in Noordhoek I thought it would be a good idea to start something at Ukhanyo Primary School. We have recently moved to Masicorp on the Chasmay Road Campus,” she says.

According to her the Stringlets perform at every possible opportunity and four boys performed on Sunday 8 September at Hotel Glencairn. They’ve performed at Spier, the Twelve Apostles Hotel, Bishops Pops and the Facets competition at Sans Souci High, to name a few.

“On weekends you can find them busking in Simon’s Town, Kalk Bay or Fish Hoek when the weather is good and they’re not busy with teacher training. I played in the Cape Town Symphony Orchestra for 16 years, left to be a mom and then taught at various schools like St Cyprians, Bishops and Silvermine Music Academy, among others, all the while playing with guitarist Mike Hoole in the group Palm Strings,” Blake says.

She is assisted once a week by Nadiah Mony, a former student of hers who is teaching at Silvermine Academy, as well as School of Rock.

“She gets them to back her rock bands at their quarterly concerts at the Roxy Revue Bar at GrandWest. My colleague Maria Botha, who runs Muzukids, is doing teacher training with them. They all love the violin and it is the most popular instrument. Any child around nine years and living in Masiphumelele can join Palm Stringlets, provided they come to lessons regularly and do their best to learn. We have lessons on Mondays and Thursday and the time depends on the level of proficiency,” Blake says.

Lucia Scott, who teaches at Bishops as well as the Music School at the University of Cape Town, often examines the Stringlets at the end of the year, so there is a level of accountability in the programme.

“The programme has taken on a life of its own and I am going with the flow. You know, instruments find us! When the kids perform people notice them and often give them their unused instruments. It’s bows and strings that don’t last very long and we are always grateful for help of any sort,” she says.

Blake also says she is very fortunate in that apart from Bishops, private donors are keeping the programme afloat.