This tiny violinist will pluck at your heartstrings


Olona Mjakuca draws the bow across her violin, a look of sheer concentration on her face. The instrument is almost as big as her. But the seven-year-old plays with confidence, balancing the violin on her shoulder with the poise of a seasoned performer. It’s a far cry from the introverted girl she was not so long ago. The sound of the strings has transformed Mjakuca, bringing the magic of music to her life. Her teacher, Tembisa Ntshongontshi, has been influential in helping Mjakuca come out of her shell.

“Olona was a very shy girl,” Ntshongontshi says. “Today, she is a shining light.” The music teacher works with the Masidlale project, an outreach programme of the Cape Philharmonic Orchestra. Ntshongontshi shows children from disadvantaged communities how to play the violin. Many of the kids Ntshongontshi tutors face hardships on a daily basis. She steps in, giving them music lessons and acting as a positive influence. “My job is to show children that despite their circumstances, there’s a power in each of them,” Ntshongontshi says. Music restores the learners’ self-esteem, and helps them discover an inner courage. The effects can be seen beyond the music room. Mjakuca has been inspired to work harder at school and her grades have improved. But more importantly, practising the violin brings Mjakuca joy. “When I’m playing music I’m very happy,” she says.

The impact on the children has even wider consequences for their families and neighbourhoods. “Hope has been brought back to our communities through music,” Ntshongontshi says. “I know it changed the kids.” The melody filling the air is a reflection of that transformation. Mjakuca already has aspirations of becoming a professional violinist. With teachers like Ntshongontshi, her dreams are possible. When we share what we love with others, we can empower even the youngest minds.