The Idea


Umculo is a Xhosa word which means both art music and reconciliation. Song unites South Africa´s diverse and divided population, and choral music is at the core of almost every school, company, church, community centre, and even prison in the country. South Africa´s choirs have long since embraced the music of opera as their own, with hundreds of thousands of young people across the country hearing and singing opera every day.

Inspired by Venezuela´s El Sistema, Umculo was founded in 2010 in order to offer musical development opportunities through international partnerships to South Africa´s existing education structures, with a focus on the voice and music theatre.  Through choral singing, young South Africans learn social responsibility and teamwork. Through music theatre, these young people can be guided through creative expression and awareness to a self determined future.

By bringing together the infrastructure and skills of the European opera world with the potential, spirit and talent of young South Africans, Umculo aims to make a meaningful contribution at an international level.

In 2014, Umculo turns five – and looks back on a short history that reaches deeper and further than any of us could have imagined when the project was born. Four opera productions, three international education conferences, two international youth music exchanges, one world premiere performed twice in partnership with a major South African event, scores of creative workshops in dozens of townships, international partnerships that have grown lives of their own,
hundreds of young lives touched by music!

Umculo is a vision that is larger than its component parts. It is a vision of hope for South Africa built on the extraordinary music talent and optimism of a young community at risk.
The power of the Umculo vision continues to draw hundreds of voluntary participants each year, and to motivate all those involved to produce outcomes that are as strong by professional musical standards as they are as a tool for social change.