Making music in Samoa

Australian volunteer Beatrice Carey has learned a lot about teaching, in her time with the National Orchestra of Samoa, and now she is seeing her students develop the skills and confidence to become teachers themselves.

Beatrice is mid way through her second AVID assignment as Music Teacher with the National Orchestra of Samoa. The orchestra was launched in 2012 and gives local people the opportunity to learn orchestral instruments while preserving traditional Samoan music, as well as providing a musical education to youth and others who may be disadvantaged.

“Much of my first assignment involved building trust and relationships with my counterparts as well as beginning to teach instruments which are very new to Samoa, such as the cello” explains Beatrice. “This second assignment is helping to extend the technical and performance skills of the orchestra’s young musicians, while also providing the path to become teachers in their own right. In doing so we can create a more sustainable orchestra and a feasible career path for our members.”

The National Orchestra of Samoa is the only of its kind to be established and developed in the Pacific and provides young musicians with a fulltime profession.

“Music is an absolute life force in Samoa and completely ingrained within the culture, with such a strong sense of community and pride” says Beatrice, who has learnt as much as she has taught during her time as an Australian volunteer. “I’ve come to realise that volunteering is an exchange of knowledge and ultimately a collaboration. I have had to often reflect on how I would have done something in Australia, throw it out the window and remember to be more flexible and open.”

The orchestra is well supported in the community and Beatrice is passionate about helping to develop relationships, both in and out of Samoa, which will contribute to the prosperity and stability of the orchestra. As a graduate of the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, Beatrice approached her former teacher Professor Goetz Richter, to provide mentorship and support. The conservatorium joined the AVID program as an Australian partner organisation, donating much needed string instruments and offering an open door for future collaborations.

Professor Richter is delighted to be involved. “There are multiple benefits this relationship can bring. Firstly, we are a University of the Asia Pacific. We must engage with the cultures of our region and of course their music” he says. After being inspired by a visit to Samoa, the conservatorium successfully applied for funding through the Australian Government’s New Colombo Plan, and soon a group of Australian students will be travelling to Samoa to work, perform and learn from the National Orchestra.

“The Colombo Plan funding is a wonderful step forward in providing the dedicated members of the orchestra with quality tutorage in their chosen instruments” Beatrice says. “This plan will allow many Samoans the opportunity to be exposed to more classical music and will provide a continued dialogue and cross cultural exchange.”