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The FSSO music-educational pipeline: past and present


The FSSO was established in 1974 through a collaborative initiative between the University of the Free State (UFS), the Department of Education of the Free State Provincial Government and Pacofs. Together these parties constituted a high-quality, three-tiered music training structure for young musicians.

In addition to playing in junior and senior youth orchestras of the Provincial Department of Education’s Musicon and in UFS student ensembles, the most gifted high-school learners and university students played in the Free State symphony orchestra (then managed by Pacofs), alongside their teachers, professors and other highly-qualified professional musicians/mentors. Many of these young musicians went on to become professional musicians and teachers in South Africa and internationally.

Current status

In 2003 the FSSO was publicly re-launched with the support of the University of the Free State, the Provincial Government, the City of Mangaung, Pacofs and the Arts Trust. It is a registered non-profit and public benefit organisation (BPO), with the objective of sustaining a symphony orchestra and a music-educational pipeline which “provides orchestral development opportunities for young musicians and students from all communities”. An institution like the Musicon, with its teaching capacity and its Bochabela String Orchestra, is a key player in preparing learners to enter this pipeline and providing positions for teachers.

Objectives and nature of the FSSO

The principal objective of the FSSO Company is to address the orchestral music-education provision, support, enrichment, learning, teaching and training needs of young musicians, which includes learners and students from all communities.

The FSSO provides the youth with the opportunity to be educated, mentored and trained in orchestral performance by professional educators and orchestral players. In this process they can develop from attaining youth-level skills to eventually accomplishing high-level, near-professional proficiency in symphony orchestra rehearsals and performances.

To this end the FSSO is engaged in establishing and managing high-quality development-oriented orchestras. The FSSO currently has three such orchestras:

  • the symphony orchestra,
  • a youth symphony orchestra and
  • a youth wind ensemble.

The professional core of the symphony orchestra comprises music professors and lecturers employed by UFS as well as music teachers from the community. The remainder of the symphony orchestra consists of the best young instrumentalists, both learners and students.

  • It cooperates in close partnership with the UFS’s Odeion String Quartet and its School of Music – as well as the music-educational programmes at high schools, the Musicon, and the Mangaung Strings Programme and its Bochabela String Orchestra.
  • Young players from the Bochabela String Orchestra and school orchestras gain entrance into the FSSO Youth Orchestra, where they learn orchestral skills and proficiency, orchestral decorum, teamwork, discipline and leadership, the basic orchestral repertoire, and so forth.
  • From there the best ones can progress to playing in the FSSO Symphony Orchestra.
    In each symphony concert young musicians participate in significant numbers. In fact, no FSSO symphony concert can take place without the numbers and capacity provided by these gifted young musicians.

This means that the FSSO annually provides numerous learning and training opportunities for young musicians in the symphony orchestra and the youth orchestra. They obtain skills are essential for them to audition for appointments in professional orchestras or for entrance into music studies at universities in South Africa and overseas (see list of ‘graduates’ below’).

This network of partnerships effectively creates a music-educational ‘pipeline’ which enables a talented young musicians from all backgrounds to progress from junior youth orchestras to senior youth orchestras to the ‘adult’ symphony orchestra.

It could be argued that no other orchestral music education programme in South Africa has contributed more to orchestral music than the one in the Free State. In the past 10 years we have developed significant numbers of youth – the majority of them from disadvantaged backgrounds – to readiness for a music career as performers, orchestral players and teachers, or for tertiary studies in music (click here for list of more than 40 such young musicians). Some of them now play in the FSSO symphony orchestra as professional players and teach music at the Free State Musicon or at high schools – thus completing the circle.

In addition, the FSSO Company presents musical outreach programmes to disadvantaged schools and communities in the Free State in order to promote interest in music and identify talented youth in such communities for individual instrumental tuition and subsequent training and development in the orchestral education and development programme, in partnership with other educational institutions and programmes. The outreach programmes of the FSSO includes the following:

  • The FSSO (in partnership with the UFS’s School for Music) regularly presents orchestra instrument demonstrations to school in Mangaung or in e.g. the Free State Goldfields.
  • As part of the UFS-FSSO partnership, two music lecturers of the UFS School of Music are involved in wind instrument teaching and outreach programmes.
  • The FSSO started a brass teaching programme at the Bloemfontein Life Change Centre in the Heidedal suburb. The program is focused on keeping youth active and away from negative influences like drugs.