THE POWER OF MUSIC: INTERVIEW WITH ANTHONY DRAKE

 

anthony-on-tour-in-bloemfontein-with-the-keiskamma-youth-orchestra-july-2016

Image: Anthony Drake

Alumnus Anthony Drake graduated with a Masters in 2009. Here he talks about his love of music, post Trinity Laban activities, and how he is making a difference to disadvantaged students in South Africa. 

Can you start by telling us a little bit more about yourself/your background, and how you became interested in music?

I became interested in music at a young age. Having played recorder and sung in my local church choir, I started formal lessons on the piano at 11 and on the clarinet at 14. I was so inspired by incredible clarinet players such as Jack Brymer and Michael Collins (both of whom I was later fortunate to meet) that I knew I wanted to pursue music as a career.

After studying music at Goldsmiths (University Of London), I undertook an internship in the office of the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment. But then my circumstances changed, leading to a complete change in career, and I moved into the field of IT and Telecommunications.

In 2006, I realised the need to do something which would touch the lives of others, and going back to music was the obvious choice. I was accepted for the Postgraduate Diploma at Trinity Laban, where I studied with Victoria Soames-Samek, then with Joan Enric-Lluna and Ian Mitchell, playing in the principal orchestras and ensembles. I was a recipient of the Leverhulme Mentorship in collaboration with the BBC Concert Orchestra, received scholarships from Trinity College London and a bursary from Trinity Laban, and graduated with a Masters in 2009. Both during and after my studies I worked as a clarinet and saxophone teacher, music lecturer and freelance clarinet player with various groups including the Galliard Ensemble.

How did you become involved with The Keiskamma Music Academy?

I had visited South Africa on holiday with my partner every year from 2007 and realised that I wanted to settle there. In 2012, an opportunity presented itself and I took the plunge. I spent some time as the Co-Principal Clarinet of the KZN Philharmonic Orchestra and as a teacher at Durban Music School. A student of mine alerted me to an advert for the post as Manager of Keiskamma Music Academy (a programme of the Keiskamma Trust); I applied, and have not looked back since.

In 2014, I became the Head of the Academy, taking over from founder Helen Vosloo. I am now responsible overall for the programme’s activities including fundraising, financial and project management, student relations, strategic planning, and staff recruitment as well as teaching clarinet, flute, saxophone and recorder and conducting the Keiskamma Youth Orchestra. In addition, I am one of the Senior Managers of Keiskamma Trust, involved in decision-making for the entire organisation. When I started, there were 47 students at the Academy; there are now over 125, since we started our newest project at a school for disabled children. Since I started, students have achieved some of the highest marks in music examinations in the Academy’s ten-year history, supported by quality of teaching awards from the University of South Africa (UNISA).

Achievements include co-founding the Keiskamma Youth Orchestra in December 2015, which recently completed a six-day national tour. I am extremely lucky to have a very supportive team of teachers and administrators who have made all of this possible.

keiskamma-music-academy-students-on-tour-in-bloemfontein-july-2016

Keiskamma Music Academy students on tour in Bloemfontein, July 2016

What are your plans/goals as Head of The Keiskamma Music Academy?

My plan for the Academy is for it to grow further to create yet more opportunities for many more young people in South Africa. The Eastern Cape suffers some of the highest poverty levels in the country, and boredom plays a role in the development of major social problems such as drug and alcohol abuse, teenage pregnancy and HIV/AIDS. I realise the huge value of music education in addressing this issue and uplifting society and believe that music has the power to unite people and work towards greater social change. Uniquely, within the Keiskamma Trust we combine programmes such as art, education and health, creating the powerful scope for drastic social development. Some of our first graduates are now studying science and accountancy at university. The Academy and other programmes of the Keiskamma Trust – with the help of committed donors – have supported these students in achieving success.

Can you tell us some more about your plans to travel to Europe next year?

In 2013, the Academy successfully applied to the SA National Lottery for funding for an international touring project which will research the culture and music of some of the original peoples of Southern Africa, the San, culminating in performances both nationally and internationally. Since we have links with Germany and I have links with the UK, a tour to Europe seemed the obvious and exciting choice. It will give us an opportunity for cross-cultural dialogue, collaboration and an opportunity for young people on both sides to learn about life in the different countries paving the way for future partnerships across the two continents.

What was your time like as a student at Trinity Laban?

My time at Trinity Laban was an incredible experience. The level of cultural diversity created many opportunities for me to experience other cultures, and to form lasting personal and professional relationships. The high quality of teaching and support received really helped me to channel my desire to succeed. It also opened many doors for the development of my career. Balancing my studies whilst working part-time in three other jobs as well as performing was a challenge, but it helped me to really focus on time-management and offered me the opportunity to develop a very wide range of skills.

Do you have any future plans to perform yourself?

My main focus currently is to extend the opportunity of music education to as many people as possible here in South Africa. I am very interested in helping to build the province into becoming one of the musical hubs of the country. I am also very interested in developing my skills as a conductor and producer. But should the opportunity to perform again, I would certainly seriously consider it. After all, it is what I have trained for at Trinity Laban!