Changing the world: Spreading the music

2012-09-11 08:30

While most youngsters are worrying about what outift to wear to the next party, some are figuring out how to make South Africa a better country.

Elvis Blue (31) uses his fame to help children from underprivileged communities find salvation in song.

Back when Elvis Blue was Jan Hoogendyk, before he won Idols in 2010 and became a household name, his passion for music had been a guiding factor in his life.

Because of what music meant to him and the role it had played in his life, he started thinking about children who didn’t have the means to turn to music the way he had.

“When I wanted a guitar, I asked my parents for one. I got it and it changed my life,” he says.

“I wanted to be able to share that gift with children from disadvantaged backgrounds.”

He met two women who were running Life Community Services in George, an organisation helping to feed, find jobs for and provide a place of safety and recreation for young people in the Thembalethu community.

“It seemed like the perfect opportunity for me to help out where I could, and I started teaching the kids how to play the guitar. I got other people to help out and we started working on something really special.”

When fame came knocking, Elvis took to heart the words of his own idol, U2 frontman Bono.

“I remembered what he had said about fame being currency. I wanted to use my fame wisely, so I decided to set up the Elvis Blue Music Academy in Thembalethu,” he says.

Children at the academy, who are aged between 7 and 12, are taught how to play the guitar as part of a three-month course. When they graduate, they’re given an instrument as a gift.

Elvis is now based in Johannesburg and his schedule is filled with shows and other commitments, so he no longer does the teaching himself, but has hired others to run the academy.

He has also grown the concept and opened a second academy in Zandspruit, northern Johannesburg.

As he did in George, he partnered with an established organisation called Emthonjeni and offered to teach music in addition to the other programmes they run.

‘I’ve managed to get some great sponsors and that makes our work infinitely easier. One of our big sponsors, ELB Engineering, came about because the owner came to one of my shows – that’s been one of the advantages of having my name out there,’ he says.

“We teach our kids discipline. This programme gives them a sense of achievement and empowerment. I was lucky enough to have teachers who made a huge difference in my life with small gestures; I hope to do the same with these kids,” says Elvis.

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