The Unite Programme May 2015 - Brings Together Mallavi and Kurunegala Students for Unforgettable Weekend of Music and Friendship By Margaret Lipman

"We wish to thank our main sponsors JICA for their financial support toward the UNITE programme. JICA's dedication is a huge strength in sustaining The Music Project .

Our special thanks to our Chief Guest Mrs. Padma Karunasena for gracing the occasion of our UNITE concert and for her generous donation to the project.

We also wish to thank our sponsors JICA, and Chairman Hemantha Karunasena of "In & Out caterers Kurunegala for their sponsorship of 200 bread loaves, and other well wishers of the Kurunegala community who gave us help financially and in other ways."

For the fifth time since April 2012, students from two very different regions of Sri Lanka came together for the Music Project's bi-annual Unite Programme - a productive and fun-filled residential programme of music making and cross-cultural exchange. Music Project students from Kurunegala and Mallavi spent three busy days together, rehearsing and performing lengthy and diverse repertoire for the Unite Concert, as well as engaging in numerous educational, cultural and social activities.
On the evening of Thursday 30th April, more than 50 students from Mallavi, a town in the Mullaitivu District of Sri Lanka's Northern Province, arrived at Lakdas de Mel College in Kurunegala. Accompanying them were parents, grandparents, younger siblings, and other relatives who had come to support the young musicians and make sure that the programme was a success.
The next morning, the northern students were reacquainted with 120 of their Kurunegala counterparts, whom they had last seen in August 2014 when the previous Unite Programme was held in Mallavi. Five schools participated in this spring's Unite Programme, namely Yohapuram MV and Mallavi Central College from Mullaitivu District and Lakdas de Mel College, Sri Gunananda MV and Pothubowa MV from Kurunegala District. Students were placed in seven groups, combining students of different schools, musical instruments, and genders, in which they would work together to complete the weekend's activities.
Friday's workshops got off to an energetic start with JICA volunteers Keiko and Kana Hayashi leading all of the students in a rendition of "Bingo" to help learn about rhythm, counting beats, and recognizing rests. Keiko also treated the students to an introduction of the Argentinian tango on the melodica and a whole group rehearsal on the recorder – an instrument that every child on the Music Project is learning to play. An observer to the workshops could not help but notice the multicultural feel - Sinhalese, Tamil, English, and Japanese were all used to communicate among the participants.
Next, with impressively minimal input from the Music Project teachers, each of the seven groups was tasked with creating and performing an improvised piece of music – no easy task to complete in a mere 90 minutes. To their credit, each group was able to produce a short piece to perform for everyone, making sure that each student, regardless of their instrument or ability, was included.
After lunch, sectional rehearsals began, as students found their fellow violinists, cellists, trumpeters, trombonists, guitarists, recorder players, drummers, clarinetists, and flautists. The specialist music teachers flew into action, coaching their respective instrumentalists through the orchestra and sectional pieces. Students from different schools – and indeed, different provinces – played together for the first time in months and worked on becoming a cohesive unit. Finally, the entire orchestra came together to practice the pieces "Last Minute Latin," "Nil Ahas Thale," "Pomp and Circumstance," "Half Minute Waltz," "Themes from 'The Water Music,'" and everyone's clap-along, shout-aloud favourite, "Tequila."
As they had been doing all weekend, the Music Project parents threw themselves into preparation and support – cooking meals, supervising students, and helping to transport the chairs, instruments, and equipment necessary for the concert. Their contributions to the success of the weekend cannot be overstated – their tireless and smiling support of the Music Project and the Unite Programme truly made them the unsung heroes of the weekend.

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Scottish Charity (Sc041632)

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Our Testimonials
Volunteering with the Music Project in Kurunegala has been a very worthwhile and enjoyable experience. During my time with the Project I have taught English in the mornings at a local school called Lakdasa College.

Then in the afternoons I travelled to several different schools with the Music Project itself to teach English, trumpet and recorder. The children are all very eager to learn which makes them a pleasure to teach.

Sandy McCleery

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