The Music Project is a NGO committed to empowering and uplifting the lives of disadvantaged youth through music.
The partnership this year will see Tokyo Cement sponsoring two schools; one in Mullaitivu and the other in Mawathagama, Kurunegala, where The Music Project conducts music lessons and train children from all age groups to play orchestral instruments. The sponsorship ensures 110 children of Palinagar Maha Vidyalayam and 65 students of Gunananda Kanishta Vidyalaya will benefit from the programme which entails learning the primary instrument of recorder, leading to the mastery of any orchestral instrument of their choice. These children are among students from six schools under the programme, who aspire to join The Music Project Orchestra that performs on invitation at various events and venues throughout the country.
At the orchestra programme in Palinagar, 110 children eagerly stay after school for music lessons, the only extra-curricular activity on offer while their parents help set up the space and distribute refreshments. The scene is set for a learning model which is holistic and therapeutic. Clusters of children sit with their teachers on mats and under trees in their familiar surroundings, to learn the basics of playing the recorder. This relaxed and easy approach to teach enables the children to grasp the lessons faster and go for simple musical achievements as a team, filling the air with wonderful creative melodies and warm, glowing smiles. The learning atmosphere is identical in Kurunegala. Again, sitting under trees away from the rigours of schooling in the idyllic setting of Mawathagama, scores of children learn through play. Participants are taught to play instruments such as the violin, viola, cello, trumpet, French horn and a variety of percussion instruments, by their fulltime teachers and volunteers from various parts of the world. Much harmony is created, not just among children with their melodious tunes, but also among two farming communities distanced be many differences, yet united through music and the want to provide the best for their children.
Speaking about the funding partnership, S.R. Gnanam, Managing Director of Tokyo Cement Company (Lanka) PLC said, “We were motivated to support this far-reaching charitable effort because, we believe in building platforms for children to explore the world using exciting new tools, and not be limited by standardised education. These young children learn not only music, but also character-defining skills such as collaboration, perseverance and respect for others. Participating in the orchestra expands their horizon, while teaching them that every member is equally important and to work hard as a team to be successful.”
The programme commenced working in the North and South in 2011, working initially to rebuild physical infrastructure of schools while nurturing the emotional resilience of communities, whose lives had been blighted by the war. The programme made music accessible to children from different backgrounds, enabling them to acquire a set of new skills with self-confidence. The programme allows them to grow at their own pace and further their holistic wellbeing by performing in front of their own communities and wider audiences. Children who become members of the Orchestra work with their peers from other communities, inculcating a sense of team work and mutual respect. Participating children have demonstrated extraordinary success at public exams and in their individual competencies, encouraging the project to take it forward and touch even more lives.
Now in its seventh year, The Music Project aims to reach out to as many children as possible working with Zonal Education Offices and international NGOs with a view of using music for social cohesion. The programme has trained teachers of Ampara, Kurunegala, Mullaitivu and Kilinochchi and distributed over 3000 recorders and teaching tools. In addition to regular music lessons, two residential programmes are conducted annually for the children of formerly divided communities to forge ties with their peers using music as the link language. The residential programme enables children and parents to work as a united team, sharing a space of music and actively participating on logistics.
Shalini Wickramasuriya, Trustee of The Music Project comments, “Seeing children pursue their passion for music that presents new opportunities and improve their choices for alternative career prospects is very motivating. Replicating the El Sistema inspired model here in Sri Lanka has gained added impetus. In addition to improving the quality of overall education of our children, we are pleased to see connections being made through music. The children learn a variety of genres of music including Sinhala and Tamil tunes enabling them to appreciate our shared cultural heritage as a united Sri Lanka. The children are very aware of the role they play and that each one is responsible to make the orchestra successful, be it by practising ahead or being attentive on the day. We are particularly grateful to Tokyo Cement for supporting us yet again through a second year of sponsorship. This endorses their belief in the project and the hard work of our team of teachers and the communities which support the project”.
The project is made possible by the generous contributions by philanthropists and leading corporations who believe in the power of music to heal and bridge divides. Tokyo Cement extended their sponsorship for the programme for 2018, motivated by the progress demonstrated by participating children and believe this builds a solid foundation for them to become well-rounded leaders of the country in the future.
Tokyo Cement Group has successfully integrated social welfare and environmental conservation into its corporate DNA and is on a continuous mission to enrich the country, its people and the environment. Its commitment to social responsibility breathes life through initiatives such as this and the partnership with the Foundation of Goodness to uplift cricket skills in rural schools, multiple environmental education programmes and impactful conservation drives such as Coral Reef Rehabilitation and Mangrove Reforestation Programme. Through these initiatives the company is laying the foundation to build our nation, which is Tokyo Cement’s primary commitment as the leader in the industry.