How Kiara Ramklass Founded MARIMBA JAM

How Kiara Ramklass Founded MARIMBA Jam. MARIMBA JAM was birthed from a desire to bridge the gap of access to quality education in South Africa. There are huge inequalities that exist in post-apartheid South Africa and one of these is access to quality education. MARIMBA JAM focuses on access to musical education, understanding the enormous psychological and social benefits that go hand-in-hand with the joy of playing in a marimba band.

The company’s founder, Kiara Ramklass, started MARIMBA JAM as a grade 11 student wanting to make an active change to address this inequality in her community. MARIMBA JAM started as a small community outreach project, facilitated by a phenomenal youth-development organisation called enke: Make Your Mark, who help high school students across South Africa start their very own social initiatives in their communities. The project consisted of a week-long marimba workshop that took place during the school holidays with a group of 10 girls from an under-resourced school, Zimasa Secondary School, in Langa, Cape Town.

In 2014, during her first year at university, both Kiara’s parents lost their jobs at the same time and she started teaching school marimba bands as a part-time job to support herself. At one point, she was teaching up to 15 bands a week while still finding the time to complete a full-time degree. In 2015, Kiara realized the need to bring another person on board to help teach the growing number of Marimba bands.

Rachel Suttle, a previous student of Kiara’s, shared a similar passion for marimbas and education. Together in 2016 they put on the first MARIMBA JAM FESTIVAL at Maynardville Open-Air Theatre to provide a platform where all 100 of their learners could perform. The festival served as a fundraising event so that they could initiate a sustainable outreach program with at least one group of students the following year. The aim of this program would be to provide weekly marimba band lessons at schools who do not have the means to afford these sorts of activities for their students.

In 2018, MARIMBA JAM (PTY) LTD was officially registered as a company. It went on to break the World Record that same year for the title of “Largest Marimba Ensemble” (achieved by 241 females on National Women’s Day). In 2019, MARIMBA JAM was selected to represent South Africa at the Social Enterprise World Forum, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. That same year, MARIMBA JAM was awarded first place in the “Investec Startup School for Entrepreneurs” , and in 2020, was named the “Number 1 Youth-Owned Business” in the Western Cape Entrepreneurship Recognition Awards.

By Thomas Chiothamisi
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