‘The Zimbabwe Academy of Music is a jewel in the crown of our country, a vital force in cultural education.  But, like so many of our once strong institutions, it hangs by a thread’. David Coltard

For more than 60 years, the Zimbabwe Academy of Music (ZAM) has stood for ambition, hope and optimism. Thousands of children and adults have studied music and taken international exams at its Bulawayo campus. In recent years it has been the driving force behind the Bulawayo Music Festival, which has continued bringing celebrated international artists to Zimbabwe throughout dark times. Its main performing venue, the renowned Robert Sibson Hall, is one of the finest in sub- Saharan Africa, and is a centre point for the cultural life of Zimbabwe’s second city. Since its foundation as a not-for-profit organisation in 1949,  the Academy has welcomed students of all races and ages, and actively seeks to encourage black Zimbabweans to study musical instruments.

In recent years, the economic downturn in Zimbabwe has hit the Academy hard; student numbers have fallen, with those remaining struggling to pay monthly fees, and the teaching skill-base has been severely depleted as many professional educators have left the country. The Academy’s resources are dwindling rapidly, and without major support, its future hangs in the balance. If ZAM ceases to exist, Zimbabwe will have lost a major institution, one that challenges and inspires young people to raise their ambitions,  unites Zimbabweans across the ethnic spectrum, and offers stability and hope for the future.

ZAM has recently made a major grant application to the new Zimbabwe Government Culture Fund for support with capital projects including air-conditioning for the Sibson Hall, an outside performance space, and support for musicians from South Africa to perform at the Academy

In Bulawayo ZAM organises a wide range of fundraising events itself,  including opera, ballet and film nights, book sales, weekend events and raffles. It earns further revenue by renting out parts of the ZAM campus to other education/performing arts groups.

We hope you may consider supporting the work of the Zimbabwe Academy of Music.  Donations might be made towards the general causes, or towards specific projects, providing opportunities for naming rights, project visits etc etc.

For too long ZAM has survived on a hand-to-mouth basis. A relatively small investment will enable it to plan and build for the future. Working directly with ZAM Principal Michael Bullivant,  the nascent British Friends of the Zimbabwe Academy of Music (BZAM) has proposed a fundraising drive covering five areas, to support the development of ZAM over a three year period.

  • The employment of two specialist music teachers, to work at the Academy and with pupils in local schools, thus developing a new generation of ZAM students  (cost £18,600/$30,000).
  • A bursary fund to fully cover the fees of ten students for three years each. This would be primarily aimed at black students. (cost  £8,925/$14,400).
  • A choral project in two primary schools in Bulawayo’s Western Suburbs, to increase the role of the ZAM as a ‘driver’ of music and the arts in the wider community  (cost £13,650/$22,000).
  • A live performance fund for the Bulawayo Music Festival, to support the 2012 event and further its ambitions to become an annual festival from then on (cost £12,400/$20,000).
  • A stabilisation fund, to settle an outstanding loan and provide a cushion for unexpected future costs (£18,600/$30,000).

Projects are explained in more detail below.

We hope that realising these ambitions will provide ZAM with a strong base on which to build over the next few years; new teachers will provide an impetus for growth; more students will produce more revenue for the Academy; grassroots projects will raise the profile of ZAM, and further define it as an organisation for all Zimbabweans; stabilisation funding will save interest on outstanding loans, and reduce quarterly crises over meeting day-to-day bills.

On 29 February 2011, to launch the fundraising drive, a special concert was organised and held in London, which raised an initial £10 000.

British Friends of the Zimbabwean Academy of Music officials:

Petroc Trelawney

Michael Bullivant
Principal, Zimbabwe Academy of Music
P.O. Box FM 40
Famona, Bulawayo

Patrons:   David Coltart, Graham Johnson OBE, Ron Sandler CBE

Fundraising Goals

1 – Employment of teachers. This fund will be used to recruit experienced, enthusiastic teachers. Possible candidates have already been identified in Zimbabwe, but the funding may also be used to recruit overseas staff through the Tabatana Trust, a Harare based organisation. The Academy will charge for the lessons they provide, both there and in local schools; thus the funding required here is part seed money to fund the first terms of the scheme, part guarantee; it is anticipated that by the end of the first year (of a three year scheme) the teachers will become self funding. The estimated set-up cost of $30,000 is based on the Tabatana Trust budget for a similar scheme in Harare.

2 – Bursaries.  In recent years many skilled young students at ZAM have been forced to quit as their parents have no longer been able to afford fees due to Zimbabwe’s  poor economic situation. Further potential future students have been deterred for the same reason. Fees per student for the year 2011 will be $140 per term,  expected to rise to $180 a term by 2013;  we would like to commit to be able to support a minimum of ten students over a period of three years. Bursaries would be guaranteed for a term a time, students would have to prove their commitment to the work in order to maintain funding for the full three year period. We would see the majority of these bursaries,  8 out of 10 in the first instance, being awarded to black students.

3 – Western Suburbs Project.  Bulawayo’s Western Suburbs are the city’s poorest areas, with underfunded state schools struggling to educate their pupils. While teachers there would love to include music in the curriculum, they lack the resources and specialist skills to do so. This scheme would see choral projects established in two local state primary schools. The benefits of community singing are well known; with opportunities to perform in the Sibson Hall and at the Festival, this would offer hope and encouragement to local children. The costs would reflect the employment of a part-time singing teacher/animateur

4 – The Bulawayo Music Festival is recognized as one of the major events of its kind in southern Africa, and has continued to run on a bi-annual basis throughout the last decade. It is seen as a major beacon of light in Bulawayo;  a period when a degree of normality returns to life in the city. It is an expensive event to run; while foreign artists appear for nominal fees, ticket prices have to be kept low, and sales do not cover expenses. This fund will meet the costs of the 2012 Festival, and lay the path for it becoming an annual event, something that we believe will encourage greater funding from international cultural programmes working in Zimbabwe,  i.e. British Council, Alliance Française, Goethe Institute. It may also be used to subsidise ad-hoc performances by leading musicians.

5 – The Academy is often at risk of becoming overdrawn, and thus incurring heavy interest charges. It also has an outstanding loan of $5500. A stabilisation fund would allow it to balance its books and more efficiently run its finances. This funding would not be used for capital projects.


All funds raised by BZAM will be held in a British bank account established in the name of the British Friends of Zimbabwe Academy of Music, and will only be disbursed to pay for agreed projects.

ZAM is administered highly efficiently on a very limited annual budget; spending is modest and kept carefully under control. The Principal is paid $740 a month, teachers receive $10 per hour remuneration.

ZAM is aware it cannot rely entirely on the generosity of individual benefactors. Both ZAM and BZAM are seeking funding from a wide range of sources. BZAM will approach British based trusts and funding bodies whose terms of reference allow them to support African based arts/community projects.

ZAM has recently made a major grant application to the new Zimbabwe Government Culture Fund for support with capital projects including air-conditioning for the Sibson Hall, an outside performance space, and support for musicians from South Africa to perform at the Academy


In recent decades, Zimbabwe’s traditionally excellent state schools have come under extreme pressures.  As living costs rose, teachers’ salaries fell dramatically in real terms, leading to prolonged periods of industrial action and professional flight from the education sector. Although the situation has improved more recently, largely thanks to the transition to the US Dollar as the primary currency of Zimbabwe,  schools still find it difficult to teach much more than the basics of education; there is little space for perceived ‘luxury’ subjects like music.

If the Zimbabwe Academy of Music is to increase and sustain its black student base, if it is to encompass the less affluent areas of Bulawayo, it will need to start at a grassroots level, by enthusing children and their parents about the potential of music, and the satisfaction it can offer and discipline it demands.
In partnership with the Royal College of Music in London, BZAM proposes to launch a major new scheme to expand music teaching in Bulawayo. The Western suburbs are historically the poorest parts of the city, yet boast primary schools led by ambitious, dedicated staff. This project will introduce pupils at these schools to the excitement of choral music, offering the opportunity to perform in the prestigious Sibson Hall, and the possibility of continuing musical studies at the Academy.

How the Project will work   

Launching in the Spring of 2012, two graduate RCM students will be selected to spend six weeks in Bulawayo, working in six primary schools, provisionally four in the Western Suburbs, two in the city centre. Each school will have two classes a week, where the graduates will teach basic vocal skills and establish choirs, augmented by found (i.e. available and/or improvised) percussion for those children who would prefer not to sing.

After the six weeks of classes, the project will culminate in two choral workshop days at ZAM’s Sibson Hall. Each day three schools will come together to work on a communal choral work, with the school choirs then performing individually and as a group in a concert for parents and the public.

Immediately after the school course, those pupils who have enjoyed the experience of choral singing will be invited to join the new ZAM Children’s Choir. This will meet on Saturday mornings (or some other convenient time) during term time and there will be a communal breakfast (or other meal) before or after singing. As some of the Western Suburbs are more than ten kilometres from the Academy and public transport in Bulawayo is far from reliable,  a bus will be provided to transport choristers to the Academy.

It is hoped that a small but significant group of choir members will show further aptitude and interest in music, and they will be encouraged to take up study of an instrument at the Academy. Bursaries to pay their fees will be met by BZAM.

In order to ensure the participatory schools are committed to this project, we believe it is essential to be able to guarantee funding for the scheme to run for three years, although subject to regular review after each season.  At the end of the first course, a  BZAM Trustee who is a composer and experienced musical educator will visit Bulawayo to lead the choral workshop days and assess the success of the first project.
This project was initiated under the then Minister of Education Senator David Coltart and has the full support of the Director of Education, Matabeleland, Mr Dan Moyo.