Hello, my name is Miriam! I’m a Music and Life-Skills Apprentice teacher at Brass for Africa. I’m 19 and I live with my mother in Kasanvu Zone in Namuwongo. 

What does it mean to be a Music & Life-Skills Apprentice Teacher at Brass for Africa?

The Apprenticeship Scheme lasts up to 12 months and it’s part of the Brass for Africa Future Talent Programme. I applied last year and now I’m going through the teacher development process, where I am training with a certified Music and Life-Skills Teacher with supervision from our Director of Music Education, Lizzie Burrowes. 

Are you paid?

Yes, I receive a monthly stipend. Brass for Africa also covers all costs associated with my apprenticeship including transport costs from home to work and to the centres we teach at. 

Did you always want to be a teacher?

Not really! Growing up, I wanted to be an air hostess but that dream died when I couldn’t carry on with school due to lack of support from my mum, who I knew did not have the means. I actually even forgot about it. 

 When did you get involved with music and Brass for Africa?

I was one of the girls recruited by Plan International under the Safer Cities Project. The options available then were catering, tailoring and hairdressing, but those were not for me. In November 2017, Brass for Africa programmes started running in the community and their music was the best! We were offered an opportunity and I joined together with many other girls and some of the boys.

Tell us about the instrument you play!

When we started, teachers allowed us to try all the different instruments and I loved the trombone. Twice a week they came in the Brass for Africa van with instruments and that was the only time we had to play, so we always looked forward to it. Along the way, some of my friends gave up for various reasons but some of us kept on. At the end of 2018, I had a chance to play in a big hall with over 800 people at the big Brass for Africa Christmas Event and that changed my view of what I was doing, from then I can say I never missed a class!

Sorry to interrupt, but was that the turning point for you? Was that when music became your thing?

Well, music was my thing from the days in primary school when I was in the choir. But when I met the Brass for Africa teachers and heard some of their stories and what music had done for them, then it definitely became my thing. I knew this was my chance because for me the opportunity was personal and the programme addressed my personal fears, so I embraced it not as a community programme but a personal intervention that reached out to me. 

What are some of the challenges you have faced and how did you overcome?

People in the community were very discouraging along gender lines, saying music education is for boys and that I was not going to manage. Right now, I am proud to teach in my own community helping other young boys and girls realise that when an opportunity speaks to you as an individual, embrace it and do not listen to the crowd because they are not at the same place with you. I have overcome my insecurities through music.

 What is your advice to other girls and young women struggling with similar insecurities?

My advice is discipline. Opportunities will come but discipline will put you in the right place and you will be noticed. I was very committed to my training. Second is to remove themselves from demeaning situations and conversations and join people who try to build the best out of you. I personally feared to speak English but the volunteer and apprentice programmes natured me to believe in myself and know that if I speak with confidence people will hear the message not the grammar.

 Finally, what’s next for Miriam?

Although COVID19 means we’re unable to attend sessions or band practice, I am still making the most of our new E-Learning Programme! My goal is to complete training to become a certified Music and Life-Skills Teacher at Brass for Africa, so that I can inspire other girls and young women in my community. I miss all of my colleagues, but I know that we will get through this together. Music has shown us what we’re capable of and that’s what matters. Now… I am unstoppable!