„We try to help every individual to learn a skill like to play a music instrument“ (O‘shane Brown, Projektkoordinator)
The project in Trench Town, a district of Kingston, came about in 2013 on the initiative of Jamaican producer Michael Brown. He received support from his wife Dr. Tanja Söllner, and together with his brother Kevin Brown and his cousin O’shane Brown they started the project. The goal was to give people in the neighborhood access to music lessons and to establish a music school in Trench Town. After the Brown family made their house available as a place to live and teach, they invited the first German musicians* to Trench Town in 2013, who came to the project through Musiker ohne Grenzen e.V.. Since then, the project work has been continuously supported by musicians. For a long time, the coordinative tasks were taken over by various family members, but in the meantime O’shane Brown has become the employed project coordinator in the Trench Town Music Project.
From the beginning, the Brown family and musicians worked to build a sustainable project and music education structure. The Trench Town Culture Yard (link: https://www.ttcultureyard.com/) – a museum, cultural center and social gathering space – became the first project partner and the space has been used for instrumental lessons ever since.
O’shane says the following about the Culture Yard:
„But Trench Town is a definitely great area to be and a nice place. We also, in the Culture Yard is also a nice area to chill out, you can have a nice social time with the individuals in there. You learn a lot from everyone, their lifestyle and the lifestyle of Jamaica.“
In addition, the volunteer musicians teach music at various schools in the area. For this purpose, several cooperations have been established with schools (for details, see Info for Musicians) in which music lessons are not regularly offered.
The core of the project’s work is the individual instrumental lessons: mainly children and teenagers, but also adults come to learn guitar, piano and drums, saxophone, trumpet or recorder. In addition, some students use the instruments provided by the project to practice and jam together. Some of the students who have been part of the project since the beginning are now involved in the music school and also give independent lessons. The level ranges from many beginners to advanced students.
The choir and the band project “Back-a-wall” are further opportunities in the project to make music together across levels and genres and to apply what has been learned in individual lessons. The focus here is on what music has in common: Listening to and respecting each other, developing a sound and musical conversation together, looking out for each other, having fun together.
Every year, several concerts and jam sessions are organized as events that provide a stage for the students and motivate everyone.
Regularly organized excursions to the Kingston area bring everyone involved in the project – the students, teachers, coordination, host family and other supporters – closer together, so that more and more the “vibe” of a music school family develops.
About the excursions, student Kaylia says:
„it’s great, I love every moment, I enjoy every moment in the program. Like, when we get to go on these little trips to beach and river – you understand? – Go as one MWB-Family. I love that.“
And she also thinks the music school family is great:
„What I will love to see more in the program is that everybody to come as one, like if there is any little problem – remember we’re all MWB- Family, all of us, we are one.“
Trench Town has a diverse music scene that is known worldwide and continues to produce successful musicians and provide musical impetus. At the same time, Trench Town is considered a disadvantaged neighborhood (Jamaicans use the term “inner city community”), where many people have poor job prospects and little access to cultural or recreational opportunities.
O’shane describes the situation in Trench Town like this:
„What I mean with “Ups and Down” is: there is good times and there is bad times. The good time when everyone can move around, you can party, fulljoy yourself, see Trench Town that you never seen before; different than the bad side which everyone probably know on the internet. Where we have gunfire people waring against each other, sometimes it’s like family and friends against each other. Which the violence always on a up and down scale. Sometimes it stops for a moment and sometimes it just starts. But anything can make it start. But we, the project ‘Musician without Border’, we fight those struggles because we’ve been through the ups and down for 5-6 years.“
His goal with the project is to strengthen the community:
„but still we as a project, we love to make the community much better, which like the individuals who seek and revenge against each other can take revenge off of their mind and try play some music and try enrich themselves and help themselves and their families members“
In addition, initial access to music lessons and instruments is often limited or expensive. O’shane Brown describes it this way:
„The [jamaican] culture is music, but there is not a lot of space to learn music“ (dt.: Die Kultur besteht aus Musik, aber es gibt nicht viele Orte, um Musik zu erlernen).
In this sense, the lessons in the music project can be both a leisure activity and an opportunity for musical professionalization. The music school should be a place of encounter and a social meeting place where new ideas can find space and musical projects can be designed.
Long-time student Jowayne describes the influence of the project on his growing up as follows:
„It has played a very important role in my upbringing as a youth, being a part of Trenchtown.“ „(It) Basically kept me out of trouble and being a part of the wrong company.“
Like our parent association Musiker ohne Grenzen e.V., Musiker ohne Grenzen – Jamaika e.V. pursues the overarching project goal of creating perspectives through access to music. The project aims to provide free music lessons to all interested people in Trenchtown, regardless of the reality of their lives.
The musicians placed through the association are currently responsible for the majority of the lessons, but their work in the project should contribute to the students becoming teachers in the future and thus develop sustainable structures of the music school in the long term.
Short & concise
Region: Trenchtown, district of the capital Kingston
Language: National language: English; colloquial language: Patois (Jamaican Creole)
Musical work: private lessons (many beginners and some advanced) and band project “Back-a-Wall” (band work and jamming with students); cooperation for school music lessons
Age group: mainly children (from 6 years), teenagers and young adults
Partners: Trench Town Culture Yard https://www.ttcultureyard.com/ , Jones Town Basic School, Model Private School, St. Simon’s Basic School and Trench Town Seventh-Day Adventist Basic School, Music Unites Jamaica Foundation http://www.musicunitesjamaica.com/ Music Unites Jamaica Foundation
Accommodation: two rooms for max. 6 persons and a shared bathroom in the house of the Brown family are available; maintenance costs of approx. 135€ /month (depending on the daily course)
Financing: self-financed (for more information about financing possibilities see application form https://musikerohnegrenzen.de/mitmachen/musikalischer-freiwilligendienst/)
Security: gang crime in Trenchtown is high. Accordingly, security is an issue that musicians have to deal with. For everyday life in Trenchtown, safety rules have therefore been established that must be observed at all times. This will also be discussed extensively during the preparation.
If you consider yourself LGBTQI+, you should know that many people in Jamaica, especially in Trenchtown, are homophobic and you may encounter hostility.
For more info or if you have any concerns, feel free to contact us.
Prerequisites: Age of majority, participation in a preparatory seminar.
We are looking for musicians:
We try to offer music lessons throughout, so that there are no gaps for the students*. Therefore, we are mainly looking for people who play “typical” band instruments. Other instruments could be taught as well, but this has to be discussed with the project management for long-term planning. Just ask!
Note: Due to the difficult visa situation in Jamaica, we can currently only facilitate a musical volunteer service for at least 6 months. In exceptions, 3 months are also possible (e.g. for musicians with music pedagogical experience).
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