Johannesburg – It's been three years in the making, and now the Bridges Music Academy has officially opened its doors.
Based in the township of Langa in the Western Cape, Bridges and Nandos invited a small group of media to be part of its launch which saw artists like Zolani Mahola and Sho Madjozi take to the stage for panel discussions and performances.
Speaking to Channel24 about how the idea for the academy came about, CEO Valentino Barrioseta said that it all started when he embarked on a journey to find purpose.
"I was living in Ibiza, working at the top of the music industry, but there was a lack of purpose and meaning in my life. So I started travelling the world to really find something out there where I could use my time in a meaningful way. Landing in South Africa was an inspiration – I was really inspired by the local music culture and the local talent, and I realised there are people on the other side of the world that have incredible amounts of talent but unfortunately don't have the platforms and outlets."
Before the academy came into existence, Valentino had started the Bridges for Music NPO as a way to connect with different people through the creative arts and also share skills. His work brought people like Skrillex and Ed Sheeran to the country. But this was not enough for the entrepreneur as he felt he needed a more "permanent facility".
Joining up with brands like Nandos, Valentino and his team established the academy.
"We came up with a way of creating a new-age creative school. Langa was the first township that I visited, and it was very inspiring to discover its music heritage," he tells us.
Valentino says Bridges Music Academy is so much more than a music school.
"We have a very holistic approach to creativity. We are a creative school where music happens to be the common thread, but we're teaching many other things."
One of the things they rely on heavily is the act of mindfulness.
He explains: "We spend, I would say, 20 to 30 percent of the time teaching mindfulness skills, from meditation to breathing techniques, to journaling, to gratitude exercises. We are equipping our co-creators with daily habits that are very practical for them."
And yes, the academy refers to their students as "co-creators" – it's something small, but that term alone helps participants feel like they are not just attending the school but are creatively contributing to it.
The academy also places a large focus on business skills.
"From the other side, we are also teaching entrepreneurial skills by people that have done their 10 000 hours. We don't have one teacher teaching everything; we have facilitators and speakers that come here and talk from their own passion and their own success."
Working together with Nandos, the school also created the Nandos Music Exchange, which saw three students from the academy jet off to London for a week to attend a workshop with musicians and experts from around the world.