The Malawi Music Project | Guest Post

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

A few weeks ago I mentioned on one of my Weekly Roundups that my friend Tara is living in Malawi, working with the Peace Corps. I've known Tara since high school and she is one of the most selfless and caring people I've ever known. She and her husband Matt spent years in preparation to join the Peace Corps and even though their volunteer time with them is over, they've managed to figure out a way to stay in the country for another year to continue their work.

I've been so excited about what Tara is doing in Malawi that I asked her to write a guest post about her current work, the Malawi Music Project. Tara and the MMP are in the middle of a big fundraiser and I wanted to give her the opportunity to share her story with my readers.

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Think back...waaay back. What is your earliest musical memory? Was it something along the line of singing “Mary Had a Little Lamb” or learning to play it on a piano or plastic recorder? Was it learning a round for the first time and singing “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” in three parts? Or maybe it was singing the alphabet?

I bet most people reading this right now can think back to their formative years and remember at least one time music was used in their school. For most people these are fond memories and help inspire creativity and for some it opens a world of extra curriculars, belonging, and professions.

For the last two years I have been working in Malawi as a Peace Corps Volunteer spending most of my time and energy in areas of youth development, female empowerment, and HIV/AIDS prevention. Early in my service I decided to infuse the arts into my curriculum. Growing up the arts (theatre and music mostly) were my means of escape, expression, and understanding a world I had yet to experience but deeply desired to be a part of. It allowed me to imagine life from another perspective and occasionally—in a more tangible way—gave me the opportunity to travel and meet new people. Through traveling choirs and theatre competitions I was given an outlet that would not have existed to me without them.

When I started working with students in Malawi, it didn't take me long to realize that nothing close to my experience was offered. There was a deep chasm that desperately needed to be filled with outlets for creativity. Music, drama, and art classes are not at risk of being cut in Malawi because they are not in the school budget to start with. However, I can tell you there is much potential waiting to be unlocked.

This is why when I came across Malawi Music Project, I jumped on board as fast as the team would let me. It's a project that was started in 2009 as a cooperative between Peace Corps and Music Crossroads Malawi. It's a week long, camp-style intervention that brings together young musicians from all over the country to hone their musical skills and learn to write songs with important social messages. In December of 2014 I participated as a camp counselor. It was phenomenal experience and you're welcome to read more about it here, on my blog.

This year, with a shift in funding availability and in an effort to make the program more sustainable, we have had to make a few changes. We have moved the project from the Christmas holiday break to the Easter holiday break, given more responsibility to Music Crossroads, and our biggest change...we've shifted completely to crowd funding as our means for financing the project.

Why crowd funding? With our typical grant source of funding no longer supporting national interventions, we wanted to give others a chance to show how much music has meant to them! The youth that come to this camp are self-taught, highly dedicated, but in a lot of cases have never played with other musicians. Imagine if they knew that well wishers from all over the world supported their dream!

What does your money do? It helps us transport youth from all over Malawi to the capital (a first for a lot of them), helps provide lodging, food, facility rental, teachers, and supplies.
  • $20 lodges one student for the entire week
  • $35 feeds a student for the entire week
  • $65 will cover a student's lodging, meals, transportation and supplies for the week
  • $125 will cover the total cost of one participant: everything listed above, but also includes teacher's fees, electricity, a live recording of their music, and facility rental.

What can you do?

This truly is a once in a life time opportunity for most of our participants. Help us make it happen! Any and every amount counts!

You can read more about Tara's time in Malawi on her blog.

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