By Shout-Africa Own Correspondent – SAMRO Endowment for the National Arts (SENA) has announced the four young composers who will be competing for two R170 000 scholarships to further their music studies overseas.
The finalists in the two categories are: Keith Moss and Angela Mullins (Western Art Music) and James Bassingthwaighte and Kingsley Alexander Buitendag (Jazz/Popular Music). Their compositions will be performed during the final round of the competition, at the University of
Johannesburg Arts Centre on Saturday, 28 August 2010.
The SAMRO Overseas Scholarships Competition rotates between instrumentalists, singers, keyboard players and composers over a four year cycle. André le Roux, General Manager of SENA, said the organisation was very happy with the response from young composers this year which saw a record number of 22 entries across the two categories. “Following the highest ever number of applications for our composer bursaries at the beginning of the year and now for the Composition Scholarship, it seems that writing music is flourishing in South Africa. Over the last couple of years we became a little concerned that formal education in composition was lacking. Therefore we are pleased that there are not only more composers applying, but also an increase in applications for music research bursaries and, in general, for all music study. In line with this investment in music education is SAMRO’s sponsoring of the publishing course in collaboration with WITS.
South Africa needs new, original music works and we are pleased that we can add to our country’s treasure trove of classical and contemporary compositions by encouraging excellence in composition, after all it is this creativity that is the lifeblood of SAMRO’s revenue, ” said Le Roux.
SAMRO has just awarded 113 music study bursaries – collectively worth more than a million rand – to music students at South African Universities. This investment in music scholarships and bursaries amounts to almost R1.5-million.
Since the inception of the SAMRO overseas scholarships in 1962, the competition has boosted the career of many a young musician and composer, including Peter Klatzow, Melissa van der Spuy, Robert Fokkens, Ben Schoeman, Burton Naidoo, Kimmy Skota and Michael Bester. The prize, currently at R160 000 plus a R10 000 travel allowance per recipient, enables the winners to study music at postgraduate level at an overseas institution or take master classes with internationally renowned composers.
The winners of the last composer’s competition, Matthijs van Dyk and Gareth Walwyn, have been busy building their careers and profiles since they were each awarded a scholarship four years ago.
Van Dijk, the son of classical composer, conductor and teacher Péter Louis van Dijk and brother of Xandi, founder member of the Sontonga String Quartet, continued the family tradition of musical excellence by winning the Western Art category of the 2006 SAMRO Overseas Scholarship for Composers.
To date he has used part of his award to take master classes and private lessons in New York and Europe, and to immerse himself in the international music scene. Now back in Cape Town, Van Dijk is brimming with ideas and inspiration to revitalise South African classical music and make it more accessible to local audiences by, inter alia, forming a contemporary music ensemble in the Big Apple tradition.
“There are opportunities here to build the scene and I am really keen to make a difference,” the 27-year-old composer and arranger says. “The SAMRO scholarship is definitely a great way to get the ball rolling and helped me find my feet musically.”
Having won the Jazz section of the competition, Walwyn was eager to pursue his studies in Latin American music. “I wanted to understudy Cuban musicians who I admire, but getting to Cuba was a project in itself,” he recalls.
He decided to go to Mexico on a working visa and learn as much Spanish as possible, before flying to Havana on a tourist visa. There, he discovered that there was no formal training available for Cuban music, which was “a national consciousness”, and that there was “a brilliant, professional-quality band on every corner”. Walwyn managed to obtain private lessons with a local Cuban outfit, as well as playing in a professional salsa outfit in Mexico and getting tips from none other than Buena Vista Social Club member Juan de Marcos González.
The 33-year-old adventurer is now back in SA, concentrating on completing his PhD at Rhodes University. At the same time he is involved in a project very near to his heart – helping township children gain access to quality music education.
The gala evening of the competition at the UJ Arts Centre on 28 August will also feature guest performances by the Wits Choir and SAMRO member Paul Hanmer, together with ace saxophonist McCoy Mrubata, who will perform a selection of Hanmer’s jazz compositions. Entrance to the final round is free.