Cultural pride at Jan Celliers Primary School

BY BERNICE DU TOIT, LIENTJIE REITZ AND CAROL KERSTEN
Jan Celliers School in Johannesburg, Gauteng, has a long and proud history as an independent primary institution where every child is to reach their full potential within a balanced, Afrikaans-based school environment.

Since its inception in 1935, the school has helped children develop into well-rounded and accomplished individuals who are highly valued and sought after by any high school they may choose to attend.
All learning is based on a Christian value system and there is a strong partnership between the school and its parent body. The staff is focused on delivering high quality teaching and cultivating enquiring attitudes in each and every child. This is a place where entrepreneurship is encouraged, creative thinking and aesthetic awareness are cherished, every learning opportunity is embraced and all achievements are celebrated.
This small school is a leader within the ever-developing South African landscape of education. Thinking, approaches and facilities are continuously re-evaluated in order to maintain exceptionally high standards. Many former pupils have added to the school’s prestige by excelling in various areas of society.

The arts are alive on Lower Park Drive!

Today, Jan Celliers School, situated on Lower Park Drive in Parkview, is proud to present its new (and still-expanding) cultural centre. In sync with our motto, “We strive for excellence”, the centre is an impressive testament to the school’s commitment to provide outstanding, holistic education.
After privatisation in 1993, the school flourished on the cultural front under the guidance of then principal Barbara Pretorius, who instilled a love and appreciation for the arts amongst the staff and pupils. Her passion was infectious and led to the school board’s decision to develop the world-class cultural centre. The arts continue to thrive at Jan Celliers under the leadership of the current principal, Gerhard Keyter, who joined the school in 2006.
The cultural centre was converted from a grand old house on a property adjacent to the original school building, which itself dates back to the late 1930s. It comprises two floors of music classrooms adjoining the spacious art room; and the beautiful, contemporary Barbara Pretorius Concert Hall. The larger music rooms on the lower floor accommodate groups of children for weekly class music lessons. Upstairs are numerous smaller, sound-proof studios for individual tuition in various instruments, such as piano, keyboard, recorder, violin, cello, flute and fife, clarinet, guitar and drums.

Feel the buzz

On entering the cultural centre, one is instantly aware of an energetic buzz that seems to pervade the air. The impression one gets is that this creative space is seldom quiet or completely deserted. Many schools that pride themselves on academics and sport can tend to treat the arts as an afterthought, but nothing could be further from the truth at Jan Celliers. The dynamic music department, consisting now of five full-time and nine part-time teachers, offers constant encouragement for growth and personal development. Pupils take part in examinations, competitions, symposiums and workshops and there are numerous opportunities to perform throughout the year. There are also several choices for children to take part in group activities such as the school orchestra, the string ensemble, the four recorder ensembles, the flute and fife ensemble, the two rock bands as well as the Orff and marimba band. The school also boasts the Barbara Pretorius Concert Hall: an ultra- modern space that opened its doors in 2015. This is a stylish venue for music concerts, drama evenings and art exhibitions. Just outside the hall is the amphitheatre where the school gathers for open-air performances or special occasions.

From acorns to oaks

Lientjie Reitz, the current head of department for culture, reminisces on the years gone by since she started at Jan Celliers in 1997:
I recall we only had a handful of pupils who took music education and just two staff members leading the music department and performing arts activities at the school.
Mrs Donau, the art teacher in the late 1990s, did amazing work to establish an appreciation for art and there was Afrikaans drama under Nicki Serfontein and English drama with Brenda Mulerov, who is still a part-time teacher at the school. Anna Fourie was the piano teacher and I then took over from Marlese Calitz as a class music and choral teacher. Both Fourie and Calitz laid a strong foundation on which we continue to build. Over the past 22 years, the number of children taking individual music instruction has grown to a staggering 271 of the school’s 403 primary school pupils.
Currently the school is in the privileged position of employing highly skilled and passionate music teachers who are leaders in their field. Piano teaching is in the hands of competent teachers such as Willie de Beer, Maria Meyer, Sanet Louw, Karin Burger, Lientjie Reitz and Charlotte Oosthuizen. Mandy Low does excellent work in recorder education. Carel Henn is always a stalwart with the cello. Two violin teachers, Maria Meyer and Violeta Miljkovic, handle the strings. Renée Hartzenberg works hard to make the flute department strong. Classic guitar takes place under the direction of George Potgieter. Kevin Drummond and Pierre Digue teach contemporary guitar. Edwin Knobel, a lawyer by profession, teaches drums on Fridays at the school. Class music is the domain of two teachers, namely George Potgieter and Lientjie Reitz.
The music teachers give a concert in the school hall annually. The purpose of this event is to expose parents and pupils to proper concert etiquette and to show off the teachers’ talents.

Offering extra opportunity

The school currently has two prestigious music education bursaries on offer: the Zanta Hofmeyr Music Bursary and the Gideon Roos Music Scholarship. The Zanta Hofmeyr Bursary is awarded annually to one pupil and all music pupils from Grade 3 to Grade 6 are eligible to apply. The judges for 2018 were Elize Krüger and Zanta Hofmeyr. The school has a long association with Hofmeyr, who has regularly performed violin performances during the Jan Celliers Music Association’s concerts. Last year 20 pupils competed for this sought-after prize and Christiaan Theron was announced as the winner. Last year also saw the launch of the Gideon Roos Music scholarship and two pupils, Jamie Theys and Christiaan Theron, were chosen as joint recipients of this prize.
It is through bursaries and scholarships such as these that the school aims to encourage all pupils to enter the arts, no matter what their skill level may be at the outset.

Sing! Act! Dance! Speak!

The Jan Celliers senior choir consists of 73 members. In 2015, they were finalists in the nationwide Afrikaans Language and Culture Association (Afrikaans: Afrikaanse Taal en Kultuurvereniging) (ATKV) “Applous” (“Applause”) competition1 and achieved third place at the “Sing in Harmonie” competition2 where they received the award for the best Afrikaans song. The junior choir consists of 74 members. At the “Applous” competition in 2017, they were among the top 10 junior choirs nationwide.

Great orators

It is easy to see that the arts are an important part of the curriculum at Jan Celliers. All classes from Grade 1 to Grade 7 make weekly visits to the beautifully-appointed art studio. The learners can also choose to take part in either English or Afrikaans drama classes, both of which offer several annual performance opportunities. The Afrikaans and English orators pupils excel at various competitions and are taught from a young age to feel confident about speaking in front of an audience. Various oratorial opportunities are offered each year, for example, ATKV,3 Gauteng orators and several eisteddfods. Grades 6 and 7 learners are also trained to speak impromptu. Jan Celliers’ orators generally progress to national levels where they win several divisions.
Speech and drama is also instrumental in the development of self-confidence and presentation skills. The learners are taught to work in groups and think creatively. Concerts, drama evenings and eisteddfods give great opportunities to put their learning into practice, and in the process they have lots of fun.

Bernice du Toit is head of marketing at Jan Celliers School. Lientjie Reitz is the head of department for culture and piano teacher and Carol Kersten teaches English.

References:
1. See: https://atkv.org.za/neem-deel/skoleprojekte/applous/
2. See: https://atkv.org.za/neem-deel/skoleprojekte/redenaars/

Category: Winter 2019

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