Reviving Jazz at Adisadel

By  Dr. Sam Mensah  - 1966 Year Group
23. April 2008


Adisadel jazz band at the 1967 Speech Day celebrationAs many of you will recall, the 1960s were the golden years of music in Adisadel. Adisadel was the first school in Ghana to start a jazz band – the famous “Adisadel Jazz Band”. Other schools that tried to get into bands created pop bands, of which Adisadel had many in addition to the jazz band. The numerous Adisco pop groups included the Thunderbirds, Ringos, Avalanches, the Soundcasters, Reavers 5 etc.

The wave of school bands lasted into the 70s and 80s but started fading away because of the rapidly declining political and economic environment which affected everything else in Ghana . Currently, there are literally no school bands. The only band I know of is the John Teye Jazz Quartet. This quartet of teenagers is just awesome. After working with them (in my capacity as the President of the Jazz Society of Ghana), I concluded that there was more that could be done to support music education among the youth and the natural starting point for me was Adisco. The reinvigoration of music learning and playing will give create an environment for producing graduates with a well rounded education which we were all lucky to have.

In 2007, a group of us (Sam Mensah, John Djokoto, Ricky Telfer) decided revive music education at Adisadel College by using jazz as the learning medium. We acquired a full set of instruments – drums, congas, keyboards, lead guitar, bass guitar, trumpet, trombone, alto and tenor saxophones, full backline, PA system with monitors – which were presented to the school during the 2007 Speech Day.

In the academic year starting September 2007, jazz started to come alive again at Adisadel. I have visited the school on a number of Saturdays to assist with rehearsals. Ricky accompanied me once to assist. The kids are now working hard to master their instruments and are playing some basic jazz standards already – Watermelon Man, Mercy Mercy Mercy, Canteloupe Island , St. Thomas and more. We are hoping to formally launch the band later in 2008.

On May 17, the students will be coming to Accra to see a live jazz concert of U.S.-based Richard Bona which will be a real thriller for them as many of them will be seeing an international jazz performer for the first time. Hopefully that will be a big motivator.

We have a number of ongoing projects and the Santaclausian music family is invited to provide financial support for these activities:

  1. Summer Music Camp: I am working with the school to set up a summer camp for two weeks during which the members of the band will remain on campus and immerse themselves in music – working on their instruments, rehearsing with the band, listening to music. Music instructors will be recruited to be at the camp to work with the students. We need financial support for the expenses which include meals, instruction, supervision, etc. The school is putting together a budget.
  2. Music Room: There is no music room at Adisadel. The old music room was converted into regular classrooms as the school population soared. There is only one music master carrying a big load. The headmaster has promised to dedicate space from a newly built classroom block for music. The room has to be equipped with instructional equipment – pianos, CD/DVD player, LCD projector, computers with music software, etc. Again we will need support from Santaclausians.
  3. Adisadel Endowment Fund for Music Education: We aware working towards setting up an Endowment Fund for Music Education that will permanently support music education. Contributions into the fund will be invested with the investment returns made available annually for music education activities. Some of the activities to be supported by the fund are:
    • Instruments and accessories
    • Scholarships for promising students in music
    • Providing a motivating stipend to the music teachers
    • Assisting students to write the Royal School of Music examinations
  4. Continuing Education for the Music Teacher: Next year, the International Association of Jazz Educators (IAJE) will hold its annual conference in Seattle , Washington. I attended last year’s in Toronto . This is a big educational event. In Toronto , there were 100 concerts in one week and every jazz great was there. If we can raise the resources, we should sponsor the Adisadel music teacher to the 2008 IAJE conference. It will be a great learning experience that will provide lasting benefits to the students.

These are ideas that are on the table at this point. Your views are most welcome on how we can make progress.  I am sure the music caucus will find time to come up with some responses to these ideas and indeed propose more. 


Sam Mensah

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Dr. Sam Mensah in 1966 as a member of one of the Adisadel pop bands


2007 Speech Day





Jazz group getting ready at the 2007 Speech Day



In the News

Jazz Revival at Adisco



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