Three young South African musicians have gained scholarships to further their studies in the UK, following long-term and long-distance learning with music experts from Royal Birmingham Conservatoire.

17-year-old cellist Sifiso Mbatha, 18-year-old cellist Kamogelo Maraba and 16-year-old violinist Jordan Brooks have gained places at The Purcell School, Royal Birmingham Conservatoire and Chetham’s School for Music respectively.

Sifiso and Kamogelo have gained ongoing tuition and opportunities through the Conservatoire’s ARCO Project, an innovative distance-learning project between the Conservatoire and the Morris Isaacson Centre for Music (MICM) in Soweto, South Africa.

The ARCO students at MICM receive weekly one-to-one instrumental lessons, mentoring and coaching, delivered by a group of current students and recent graduates from the Conservatoire via the video conferencing system, Zoom.

Sifiso Mbatha, from Dobsonville, Soweto, was one of the inaugural group of students on the ARCO Project in 2015 and has now been awarded a scholarship for sixth form study at The Purcell School for Young Musicians in Hertfordshire, where he will be learning cello with Visiting Tutor in cello Ben Davies.

Sifiso said: “Music is like a guardian that has been sent to help me get over my pain and sadness. It makes me feel happier and helps me experience my feelings from a different perspective. I’m looking forward to taking my cello playing to the next level so I can pursue music as a career.”

Kamogelo Maraba, from Diepkloof, Soweto, attended the National School of the Arts from 2015, achieving a distinction in music. He has concurrently been a student on the ARCO Project, a member of the Rand Symphony Orchestra and the Johannesburg Youth Orchestra. Kamo has been awarded a scholarship to study for a BMus (Hons) at Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, and will be learning the cello with Ben Davies.

Kamo said: “Music means a lot to me. It creates meaning in my life. I’m looking forward to growing as a musician and a human being, and to creating friendships that will hopefully last a lifetime.”

Jordan Brooks, from Cape Town, started violin lessons aged seven, performed as soloist with the Cape Town Symphony Orchestra, and won the South African National Youth Music Competition in 2019. He is Concertmaster of the Cape Town Philharmonic Youth Orchestra and the Beau Soleil Senior String Ensemble. Jordan has recently begun online lessons with ARCO to support his music education in Cape Town, and has now been awarded a scholarship to study at Chetham’s School of Music in Manchester, where he will be studying with fellow South African Jan Repko, a committed ARCO teacher and Visiting Tutor at Royal Birmingham Conservatoire and Chetham’s School of Music.

Jordan said: “I’m very excited to be stepping into a new environment and getting to know more people. I’m also looking forward to having the opportunity to receive lessons with the amazing Jan Repko!”

ARCO Project recently announced a partnership with the Quartet of Peace Trust and is looking forward to welcoming these three musicians to the UK.

Principal of Royal Birmingham Conservatoire Professor Julian Lloyd-Webber commented: “Everyone at Royal Birmingham Conservatoire is delighted about the achievements of these three students. During this time of global crisis, we are coming to increasingly value the wide range of skills needed for online teaching. The magnificent results from the online ARCO venture and the arrival of Sifiso, Kamogelo and Jordan this September all prove that ARCO has come of age at this crucial time”.

The ARCO Project will continue to support the three musicians as they embark on their musical journeys in the UK, including fundraising for airfares, living expenses and outstanding tuition fees.

Donations to support these students can be made on the ARCO Justgiving page or contact alistair.rutherford@bcu.ac.uk.