Note: Brenda made her trip to Tanzania in September and October, 2008. She has written an account of her journey in the 2008 ABCP Newsletter, pp. 4-5. Brenda's journey is also documented on pg. 22 in the American Ensemble department of the January issue of Chamber Music magazine.
Brenda Schuman-Post is an innovative oboist who is passionately concerned about a sustainable future for the mpingo tree, also called the Tree of Music, because of its use in the manufacture of musical instruments. Since 2003 Brenda has been involved in informing the music world about the threats to mpingo. She has organized a lecture-performance with over 100 slides and video called "Mpingo's Fruit" (info at www.oboesoftheworld.com/perf3mpingo.htm) to educate diverse audiences including musicians, museum goers, university faculty and students, botanists, conservationists, environmentalists and students of African studies about mpingo, showing the tree's habitat, methods of cutting and harvesting, wastage incurred in the milling process, and various forces that are impinging on the future viability of the species. She also discusses the trees conservation status (near threatened) and conservation efforts that are currently ongoing to save the species.
This year she was awarded a Global Connections grant from Meet the Composer. The purpose of the grant is to assist "the creative and professional development of living composers through the performance of their work worldwide." To this end, Brenda will use the stipend provided to travel to Tanzania and collaborate with our colleague, Sixtus Koromba, in composing via improvisation original music that draws upon both Western and African styles. Additionally, she will perform at Environmental Day ceremonies and other local venues. For some Africans, this will be the first time they will have seen a live performance with an oboe. The objective is to raise awareness, appreciation, and support for mpingo conservation within Africa by demonstrating an important international cultural use of the wood. Additionally, Brenda will use her journey to inform the international community about mpingo conservation by sending out press releases and setting up interviews and further educational venues when she returns.
In Brenda's words, "We will build bridges between our diverse and co-dependent cultures. For possibly the first time in history, the Western musical community, still profoundly unaware of the threat to the primary tree that becomes woodwind instruments, and the African communities that play so unappreciated and yet so significant a role in Western music, will be bonded through the music that both are responsible for creating. This project is about interconnectedness." For further information about her work, see www.oboesoftheworld.com.
Sixtus Koromba is a multi-faceted musician, who also has had a long career championing the cause of conservation. He will be collaborating with Brenda in her musical outreach, bringing together musicians, finding musical venues for performing, and also cooperating in the task of composition and recording.
Sixtus is a graduate of Mweka College of Wildlife Management, one of Africa's most prestigious wildlife institutes, and also has a degree in animal husbandry. For the past 15 years he has been working with Sebastian Chuwa in composing environmental music and working with school choirs in teaching performance skills for this music. The ABCP was provided funding in arranging recording sessions for this work.
As a Volunteer Coordinator for Roots and Shoots (youth environmental organization founded by Jane Goodal) in Arusha Region, he has worked with many youth groups in sponsoring conservation and tree planting initiatives. Since 2005 he has worked with a Dutch organization called Nature for Kids, which produces 20-minute films oriented towards the teaching of conservation to children. These films use local children and their parents as the actors and are narrated in the local language. Sixtus assists in the filmmaking and also travels around presenting the films in 76 vulnerable targeted areas, teaching each group environmental songs and leading discussion groups about the subject matter of the film. You can view one of these productions about Sebastian Chuwa's work on Mt. Kilimanjaro in a YouTube video from www.natureforkids.nl/bibliotheek.php#SophiaForrest (text in Dutch, English version is under construction).
For over 20 years, Sixtus has been working to advance the cause of environmental awareness in Tanzania. We believe that his collaboration with Brenda Schuman-Post will help to further the cause of mpingo conservation, both within Africa and internationally, by demonstrating the musical magic that can be produced from its wood, and showing the depth of commitment to its future preservation demonstrated by these champions of its conservation.
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