Critic Shirley Apthorp was inspired by Venezuela’s use of music to empower communities but realised the post-apartheid generation needed a change of key to unlock an artform so associated with a white elite

Inspired by the successes of Venezuela’s music education programme El Sistema in effecting social change, South African-born Apthorp was convinced that opera could be a tool for empowering people. She founded Umculo, an organisation that brings music theatre to young people and adults alike, working with professional singers and instrumentalists to give performances that have garnered international acclaim. Among Apthorp’s team are directors Kobie van Rensburg and Robert Lehmeier and composer/educationalist Cathy Milliken

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