Help a South African Community Rebuild with Music

by Playing For Change Foundation

On October 6 we learned of the passing of one of our most beloved teachers at the Ntonga Music School, Elijah Gxenya. Elijah taught recorder and guitar to students in Gugulethu, South Africa every week since the school opened in 2009. Elijah was a kind and genuine person, who loved teaching. As a teacher, he helped students learn, grow and follow their dreams.

He had a special relationship with his students and understood the unique challenges they faced, and for many he provided their first introduction to music. Elijah lost his long battle with cancer, but through it all he lived his life with grace, love and dignity. He will be sorely missed and his passing is a great loss to our Ntonga and Playing For Change Foundation families.

Our thoughts go out to his family and loved ones. Elijah and his immense contribution to the community of Gugulethu and its children will never be forgotten.



Early this year the program team at the Playing For Change Foundation worked on strategy with the leadership team at the Ntonga Music School that could grow the school in a manageable way, increase community outreach and participation as well as improve the overall structure of the music school.

Since February we have seen encouraging progress. We now have a strong administrator in place, and three new committee member candidates from Gugulethu. There are approximately 40-50 consistent students and up to 100 students that are participating in the program. There has been outreach to two local schools and a small event at a nearby township. Derrick, Ntonga's administrator is in constant communication with parents and checking in on students that miss a class, including visiting their homes. We have a solid, experienced candidate for the vocal teacher. We’ll be making final decisions on the committee and vocal teacher in the next one to two weeks.  

The spirit and energy of the school continues to strengthen. We have heard the impact the program is having from the students themselves,

"I play drums and I feel playing drums is going to make my future. I'm not going to become a gangster, it is going to do good things for me and make my life good."-  Mphumzi, 13 years old

"I have confidence when playing my guitar and I know the notes of the music I'm playing." - Eletmu, 8 years old

"I have learned team work, to work together and to share." - Liami, 6 years old

"I've learned a lot of new things here, such as how music connects me to other people and how I learn new things with them." - Zizpho, 18 years old

The community of Gugulethu is the heart of the music school and it's success. We're so happy to continue our relationship with the society of Gugulethu "Gugs" that thrives despite adversity and has the ability to see the positive regardless of the challenges.  

Ntonga Music School
Ntonga Music School
Students playing guitar at Ntonga
Students playing guitar at Ntonga
John, saxophone teacher at Ntonga
John, saxophone teacher at Ntonga
Children playing in Gugulethu
Children playing in Gugulethu


This postcard is submitted by Chi Nguyen, our In-The-Field Representative who is traveling through Southern Africa.

On the morning of Wednesday, February 26th, 2014, I was able to visit Pokie and Derrick of Ntonga Music School. Although it was too early for the younger ones to arrive at Ntonga, I was able to witness Pokie giving a one-on-one bass lesson to an older student of his. When asked how he enjoyed Ntonga, a huge smile spread across the blossoming bass player's face and he said, "I love it. I come here every day, every single day, before work. It is my passion."

I watched as the two of them improvised a duet together, both of them rocking back and forth, lost in the music. What a wonderful way to start off the day indeed.

Gugulethu sings for a Better Place!

The students and teachers of the Ntonga Music School, in Gugulethu, South Africa, came together to compose and record a song inspired by the great heroes of South Africa: Nelson Mandela, Steve Biko, Myriam Makeeba and others. The Song is called “Strong” and gives a clear message on how we have to face life, whoever we are, wherever we come from.

The song has been composed and arranged by two of our elder, advanced students at the Ntonga Music School, Faith Nomungeka and Nonvuyo and recorded at the school, with the participation of all our students and staff.

The township of Gugulethu is located 20 kilometers from the city of Cape Town, South Africa. This is where the Playing for Change Foundation built its first music school in 2009. Like many of the townships formed during the government-imposed Apartheid that lasted from 1948 to 1994, Gugulethu is a community in need of assistance and inspiration. 

The Ntonga Music School in South Africa was one of the locations chosen for the Playing For Change project with the UN Millenium Development Goals. This incredible opportunity gave the students a chance to express themselves through music, by recording songs and organizing workshops. This song is the first release of a series of videos destined to demonstrate that music is a tool for positive change in this world.

One love


Music is a tool for social change and a vector of expression for people who live in difficult conditions. No where is that more evident than the Ntonga Music School in Gugulethu, South Africa. The true testament, for us of the power of music and it's incredible ability to change is the progress we see in our students. One of those students is Bongiwe, she is the shining star of the saxophone class. 

As Bongiwe told us, "Music distracts us from doing wrong things and it is a tool to reduce crime. I wish politicians would give us the opportunity to open more music schools in South Africa."

Although Gugulethu, like many places in the world is still struggling to rise from the past and forge a better future there is hope in the young.

Thank you for supporting our efforts to help make this world a better place, one instrument, one young person, one community at a time. 





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Organization Information

Playing For Change Foundation

Location: Santa Monica, CA - USA
Website: http:/​/​
Project Leader:
Shauna Murray
Culver City, CA United States

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