Music saved her life, now her beloved orchestra is in a jam

Nomsa Bapela has learnt how to play the french horn at the Johannesburg Youth Orchestra. Picture: Justine Mac
Nomsa Bapela has learnt how to play the french horn at the Johannesburg Youth Orchestra. Picture: Justine Mac

She was broken when she found music, depressed, cutting herself and taking pills.

But then Nomsa Bapela joined the Johannesburg Youth Orchestra.

Now 22, she says it saved her life.

Bapela, who hails from Protea Glen, Soweto, had a rough start.

She was a premature baby, born with a heart defect.

She was dealt another blow when she was sexually assaulted by an uncle when she was very young.

As a result of this, she underwent severe depression, and it was only due to the time spent as a member of the Johannesburg Youth Orchestra that she was able to turn over a new page and look forward to each day through the power of music.

“I wanted to feel pain all the time and cried so much. I really went through a bad time because I was so scared and depressed,” she said, speaking about trying to drown her pain with pills and self-mutilation.

But after joining the orchestra, she was introduced to the joy that came with playing various instruments, including the French horn.

“When I was younger, I only knew of instruments like the violin or the recorder. And when I was introduced to the French horn I didn’t like it at all, I thought it looked so fat!” she laughed.

It took her two months to learn how to blow into the horn, but she never gave up.

Now Bapela is facing another battle. Her beloved orchestra is facing closure should it not raise about R1 million soon.

The Johannesburg Youth Orchestra Company, which has operated as a non-profit organisation since 1998,  takes in a host of pupils, for a nominal fee, from both underprivileged and privileged backgrounds.

The Johannesburg Youth Orchestra was formed in 1976 and is reliant on funding from sponsors to carry them through each financial year.

The orchestra has performed around the country at various events.

Board member of the orchestra, Matthew Marinus, took to Facebook to appeal for funding from friends and members of the community.

His video has already surpassed 6000 views.

“The response that I have received from my video has been so huge and I am so grateful for the response I am receiving. We really need sponsors to come on board and help us.

"We take in kids from all walks of life, because we believe that the impact which music brings to these kids’ lives is immeasurable,” Marinus said.

He has seen children who have joined the orchestra turn their lives around.

It provides a safe haven of creativity and focus while allowing the children to grow and develop their confidence and skills, much like Nomsa.

Nomsa now has hopes of one day acquiring her own French horn, so that she can play at shows.

“I would love to get my own French horn, because I am always using the school’s and it becomes difficult. But I do see myself going further with music, because music saved my life,” she said.

Watch Marinus’ plea for help here:

Avantika Seeth
Multimedia journalist
City Press
p:+27 11 713 9001  e:
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