Dorothy Ruth Boxall was born on 19 July 1895 in King William's Town, Eastern Cape, South Africa. She dedicated herself to the promotion of music in South Africa. She studied under Prof. P.R. Kirby of the Department of Music at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, Transvaal (now Gauteng). In 1934 she was appointed lecturer in music at the Johannesburg Normal College, a position she retained for 17 years. Boxall believed that music was essential in every child’s education. She dedicated her life to promoting and encouraging talent among the less privileged. In 1932 she started music classes for children. In 1945 she formed a children’s orchestra and in April 1946 the Young Citizen’s Orchestra gave its first concert. Her love of choral work and her ambition to include less privileged children materialised in October of the same year when she directed a choir of 1,000 children, accompanied by the children’s orchestra. In 1947 a mass choir sang under her direction at the Zoo Lake in Johannesburg during the British royal family’s visit. By 1950 the Children’s Festival had become an annual event.

Boxall also served on the executive council of the Johannesburg Music Society; acted as an adjudicator at both the then European and Coloured Eisteddfods; was a member of the Music Committee of the School Teachers’ Music Association; served on the Research and Education Committee of the South African Society of Music Teachers; and was twice chairwoman of the Witwatersrand University Musical Society. A regular contributor on music to Die  Boervrou, she also had articles published in the South African  Music  Teacher, the Transvaal Educational News, The Sunday Times and The Star.

She aimed to embrace all the arts in her movement and in 1949 launched the Johannesburg Junior Orchestra and Theatre. This was followed by the first Annual Play Festival for schools and colleges. In 1951 she established the Witwatersrand College of Music, whose new approach to music teaching ensured that children learnt to play instruments for which they were psychologically suited. In her will Boxall left a trust for the Dorothy Boxall Bursary for Music. The Johannesburg Junior Orchestra and Theatre merged to become the Dorothy Boxall Young People’s Music and Drama Movement. She passed away on 23 December 1951 in Johannesburg.

  • Department of Arts, Culture, Science and Technology. 2000. Women Marching Into the  21st Century: Wathint' Abafazi, Wathint' Imbokodo. Shereno Printers: South  Africa.

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