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Encore: Rosemary Nalden

Rosemary Nalden is currently the founder and director of Buskaid, a music academy in Soweto offering high-quality string teaching to local children and youth. Before she started Buskaid, Nalden worked in London and internationally as a freelance viola player for many well-known ensembles and orchestras specialising in ‘authentic performance practice’.

Name three artworks that you love and why.
First on my list: Ich habe genug (JS Bach Cantata no 82) sung by Lorraine Hunt Lieberson when she was terminally ill. Hunt Lieberson was also a viola player, which makes her very special for me. There are no words to describe the poignancy of this recording. Akenfield, a film by Peter Hall, made a deep impression on me in the 1970s. All the actors were local villagers, the dialogue was largely improvised, and filming took place in Suffolk over one year to capture rural life during the changing seasons. The music is Michael Tippett’s sublime Fantasia Concertante on a Theme of Corelli. Thirdly, I own a very large canvas by Ricky Dyaloyi that depicts a miner leaning on his shovel. The title is Trying and it’s a very powerful, moving work. Dyaloyi is very clear about his role as an artist in highlighting the human condition, particularly in the townships.

Name one artist you would love to meet.
I’m taking a liberty with the tense of this question because I’ve always thought I would love to have met Mozart. Bach and Beethoven would be totally daunting, but I’m fascinated by Mozart’s wit and wickedness.

What are you reading at the moment?
I’m reading The World of Yesterday by Stefan Zweig. It’s a dense, evocative memoir about the author’s travels through Europe before, during and after World War I. I am constantly struck by Zweig’s modesty, humanity and complete lack of ego, despite his own fame and the illustrious company he kept. What a contrast with the ‘celebrity culture’ of the world we now inhabit! Zweig was Jewish, and his almost naïve realisation that Hitler was in the process of crushing not only him, but also the Europe he loved, became too much for him, and he took his own life in 1942.

What is in your car’s CD player?
There’s keen competition between our soon-to-be-released new album, Movies and More, which we recorded live at a concert last year, and the Biber Mystery (Rosary) Sonatas played by my very dear friend Maya Homburger. Two of my students are playing movements for their Licentiate of the Royal Schools of Music (LRSM) exams. I guess the contrast between Biber and movie music rather sums up our somewhat eclectic approach to music!

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
Only one?! I think if I lowered my stupidly high expectations of myself and of others, life might be less of a struggle!

Have the arts industries in South Africa changed over the last ten years?
Yes, but not enough. There are far more opportunities for creative young people, although there’s still not enough attention paid to arts education in schools. And I’m guessing that career guidance practitioners rarely promote the arts as a career option.

Name one thing you think would improve the arts and culture industry in South Africa.
Well, I’ve mentioned it above. We all know by now that exposure to the arts has a powerful influence on children in terms of their chances of improved academic performance, ability to concentrate, self-discipline, and self-esteem. And even children don’t choose art, music, dance or drama as a career, they are far more likely to patronise the arts if they’ve been exposed to them at school. It’s really a no-brainer! Oh, and is there anyone who doesn’t use the word ‘money’ somewhere in the answer to this question?

What is your most treasured possession?
She’s not a possession, she’s my dog! She is my third township rescue dog, and all of them have been the most loving companions you could possibly imagine.

What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?
Witnessing cruelty to animals, particularly dogs. I’m afraid that this exists purely through lack of education. I’ve seen far too much of it, and it breaks my heart.

What is it that makes you happy?
Being in my garden with my dog on a Sunday – my day off; teaching my children in Soweto and seeing their progress. That’s the ultimate pleasure!

Describe a defining moment in your life.
It has to be the moment in November 1991 when I happened to have the radio on in my flat in London one morning and heard a brief news item about a string project in Soweto that was in difficulties. That changed my life completely – I reacted, responded, and as a result, I’ve spent the past 21 years working in Soweto.

What projects will you be busy with during 2018 and into 2019?
We have a wonderful concert coming up on 29 September in which the guest artist will be the international pianist Melvyn Tan performing a Mozart piano concerto and Saint-Saens’ Wedding Cake Waltz with the Ensemble; we’re also releasing two new CDs; and a week after the concert, 19 of our students are taking international exams from Grade 2 right up to LRSM. Busy times!

Name one goal you would like to achieve in the next twelve months.
It’s imperative that we start to build a new school on a bigger site. We are hugely short of space and this is stressful for all of us. We’ve identified the site – now we have to go all out to raise the funds to build!

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