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