University programme committed to music promotion

Eight years after its establishment, the National University of Samoa’s Expressive Arts Music Program continues to promote music and the performing arts in the country.

The Expressive Arts Music Program consists of various music programs ranging from vocal to instrumental studies and performance and include a senior choir, students chamber choir and children's choir.

The program was officially established at the university in 2012 and the Music and Performing Arts Lecturer, Rosaivitilesaualofaoleola Solomona, says almost all ages are covered by the program.

The Expressive Arts Music Program or "Community Programme" also supports formal training of teachers at the university's Faculty of Education.

"So for our teachers who are wanting to be performing arts and music teachers after they graduate, this is the programme where they do a lot of their practical,” she said.

“So a lot of their performance experience and workshops with visiting artists that come on island, this is the programme that they go through all that.”

The Children's Young Musician Programme, which is part of the N.U.S Expressive Arts Music Program, was founded in 2007 and is the result of the National Orchestra which was created in 2006 and is now with the Ministry of Education Sports and Culture [M.E.S.C.].

"They started the children’s program because there needed to be a feeder program to the national orchestra,” Ms Solomona said.

According to Ms. Solomona, the program had moved to N.U.S with the concept of a feeder program when her parents Ueta Solomona and Susau Solomona moved to the university.

She explained that some of the success stories of the program would be Kotimani Apa Taavao and Philton Solomona. Mr. Taavao and Mr. Solomona both joined the program in primary school until they attended the N.U.S.

Philton Solomona had started in the community programme in Year 3 with the violin but was playing the piano prior to that.

"So all throughout primary, high school he was still in this community programme, the children's programme,” she said.

“He did violin, saxophone all of that all the way through high school, foundation here at the university. So here at the university when he got to the foundation he was already quite experienced.

"And the community programme kept pushing him in terms of performance."

Mr. Solomona currently studies music in China and Ms. Solomona stated that it wouldn't have been possible if he didn't go through the community program.

Mr. Taavao, who is Samoa's only flute player, had also gone through the community program similar to Mr. Solomona and was a music minor at the University and now teaches at Safata.

“We are encouraging Apa to create something similar to the university, just music clubs, like a choir, maybe if he can a brass band, do a jazz band,” Mr Solomona said.

Ms. Solomona stated that the community programme was a place where overseas academics and practising artists would come in and invest. 

And they have had the likes of Dr. Opeloge Ah Sam, who is a Samoan based in New Zealand as well as Professor Willy Merz of Italy and Dr. Courtney Savali Andrews from America.

Ms. Solomona explained that there seems to be a decline in students coming in to study music formally, due to many changes and factors that influence students to or to not sign on as a performing arts or music arts student.

She explained that creating relationships are important to support one another and stated that over the years they have had collaborations with the Samoa Police Band.

"So at some point whenever we have a concert and the university, our community programme provides the string players, the police band provides the brass and woodwinds,” she added.

The N.U.S Young Musicians Program began on Wednesday evening after being postponed due to S.O.E. restrictions and Ms. Solomona said she is looking forward to working with the children.

“If we by any chance get to groom individuals like Philton and Apa Taavao who take music and education a bit more to tertiary level and career path. It really is just contributing to the quality of life, young children to be critical thinkers as they grow, to appreciate the arts,” she said.

“so even if they grow up and become lawyers, their lives have already been enriched and the quality of their education has been enriched.

“I can only pray for someone who has been blessed to do her passion and find a job. In today’s world, whether formally or informally they need to expand their horizons so that they are applicable in whatever climate.

“What I mean is, do not limit themselves to a particular genre. Don’t just be a singer in today's world, you got to be multiple things like I am an artist by heart but I am also a teacher. I find a career by teaching what I love to do.”

According to Ms. Solomona in the program there are 22 trained vocalists in the senior choir, 10 in the N.U.S Dance Theater, 15 children in the Children's Choir and all music students of the university make up the N.U.S Chamber Choir.

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