The Ballanta Academy of Music is celebrating its 12 years of existence and is now planning to get a bigger building that will accommodate more classrooms and a theatre.
The Academy was opened on October 25, 1995 and was named after Professor Nicholas George Julius Ballanta who was Sierra Leone’s foremost musicologist, teacher, composer and aesthetician.
The institution has grown steadily in stature from its humble beginnings and the main aim is to teach music to a high standard and to drive its development seeking always to do the best possible in everything, from teaching beginners to producing concerts, musicals, festivals and competitions.
Ballanta has two terms that are named after Ballanta’s operas, Afiwa and Boima. In addition there is a short holiday term called Phoebe, named after Ballanta’s only child.
The Academy offered courses of studies in Piano, Keyboard, Organ, Recorder, Flute, Voice, Guitar, Saxophone, Trumpet and other Brass instruments, Violin, Drums (Drumkit), African Drums and Theory of Music.
Students are accepted at any level and given tuition on their choice of study, attending Theory of Music classes also. Currently, students prepare for the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music (ABRSM) examination in practical subjects and the Theory of Music.
The Academy also runs two certificate courses. The first is the Band/Choral Director’s Certificate and the second is the Certificate in the Performance of African Music Instruments. They have their own syllabuses, and are designed to train leaders in the field of music.
In addition to these courses, there are weekly sessions for young students, aged 7 – 12, who have singing and African dancing sessions. These are our young Ballanta Singers, numbering 15.
There are also the Ballanta Music Makers, who are the choral group of young adults. Apart from singing they have started African Dancing and are the core performers in the musicals and operas, so their repertoire has been widened to embrace dance and drama
A quartet of brass players, two trumpets and two trombones, were formed this year, and are called Pets and Bones. They are specializing in the local music repertoire.
Last year there was an average of 50 students, that has increased this year slightly per term for the main studies. In addition, there are 30 Ballanta Music Makers, 15 Young Ballanta Singers, and 4 in Pets & Bones. Two of our students are visually impaired.
There are four administrative staff including the Principal Dr Kitty Fadlu-Deen, Vice Principal and Head of African Studies Mr Rowland Eno, the Secretary and Finance Officer Mr Felix Macauley and the Messenger/Cleaner Mr Hassan Kanu.
The teaching staff consists of eight teachers including Mr Leslie Cummings-Wray teaches Saxophone, Drumkit, Piano, Recorder and Theory. Mr Claudius Roberts teaches Guitar and Theory. Mr Francis Anthony -= Flute, Theory. Mr Tani Pratt – Organ; Mr Allen – Piano; Mr Suleiman Sesay – African dance; Mr Rowland Eno – African drumming and Dr Kitty Fadlu-Deen – Voice, Theory, Piano, Music Appreciation.
In 2006, Ballanta Academy was the only African music group that was in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to perform in the International Society of Music Education (ISME).
It was the breaking point of Ballanta as they were able to exhibit their talents to the predominant Asian audience with their dances and drummings.
Students from the Academy have been doing well as 19-year-old Raymond Macauley is in Utrecht Conservatory of the Arts, Holland, pursuing his course in Piano. He is the third student who has been accepted for higher studies abroad.
This year will also mark the resumption of practical exams of the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music, enabling our students to get an international award.
In March 2008, the Academy plan to hold the inaugural lecture of the N.G.J. Ballanta Memorial Lecture Series. It will attract international Musicologists and music educationists.
Also the Academy will be performing ‘Bobo Lef’ a musical dance drama by Raymond Desouza George at the British Council on the first week of May.