Blessed with voices that soar with jazzy richness or operatic timbre, twelve young singers are gearing up to vie for the two lucrative overseas scholarships offered by the SAMRO Foundation this year.
Six Western Art music and six jazz candidates have progressed to the semi-finals of this year’s SAMRO Overseas Scholarships Competition for singers. The accomplished young vocalists – aged 21 to 30 – will face another test of their vocal prowess during a live intermediate round at Johannesburg’s Linder Auditorium on 27 August. A panel of leading academic and industry adjudicators will select the top two candidates in each genre and these four finalists will compete for top honours on 29 August, when the winners will be selected.
For over half a century, SAMRO’s prestigious competition has awarded scholarships to young South African composers, instrumentalists, keyboard players and singers to pursue academic excellence or artistic mastery abroad.
This August, new talent will join a glittering pantheon of South African musicianship – drawn from the ranks of these twelve rising stars:
Western Art Music Semi-finalists
Khanyiso Gwenxane (26)
Hailing from Khayelitsha, Khanyiso’s early break was performing on London’s West End in Isango Portobello’s The Magic Flute in 2007/2008. He went on to complete his national diploma in vocal art and BTech at the Tshwane University of Technology, as well as a postgraduate diploma in music performance at the University of Cape Town. A tenor, he was a finalist in the 2014 Belvedere International Singing Competition and has performed in numerous operas (including Faust in Stockholm), concerts and oratoria, and as a soloist with the Cape Philharmonic Orchestra.
Andiswa Makana (29)
Endowed with a warm, sonorous lyric soprano voice and inherent musicality, Andiswa sang in community choirs in her hometown of Port Elizabeth. However, she had no formal operatic training until she enrolled at the Tshwane University of Technology, where she obtained her national diploma and BTech before heading to Cologne to further her studies at the Hochschule für Musik und Tanz, where she currently resides. She has excelled in several international opera competitions, but a highlight is performing the lead role of Winnie Mandela in Bongani Ndodana-Breen’s Winnie – The Opera in 2012.
Nombuso Ndlandla (26)
Piet Retief-born Nombuso started singing in high school, clinching second prize in a national schools singing competition. She completed a BMus at North West University, majoring in opera singing. In 2014, she joined the international Lübeck choir academy and the Bamberg symphony choir, and is currently in Germany, studying towards a Master’s degree at the Hochschule für Musik und Tanz. This coloratura soprano was also a semi-finalist in the International Competizione Dell’opera in Austria last year, and has performed as a soloist in several opera productions and at the Johannesburg International Mozart Festival.
Levy Sekgapane (24)
Born in Kroonstad, Levy sang in community and church choirs before enrolling at the University of Cape Town as a double major BMus student in classical piano and singing. He is currently completing a postgraduate diploma. He has sung in Germany and in a Scottish Commonwealth Games opera, and performed for US President Barack Obama during his visit to UCT. This exceptional young tenor recently won the 2015 Belvedere Competition for young opera singers, held in Amsterdam. He will soon join the young artist programme at Semperoper Dresden In Germany.
Makudupanyane Senaoana (23)
Johannesburg-born Makudupanyane is currently a student of the South African College of Music at the University of Cape Town, having been schooled at the Drakensberg Boys’ Choir School. He won the university’s Rialto/Olitalia competition and was a finalist in the Paris Opera Competition, while also being invited to participate in the Houston Grand Opera’s young artist academy. This gifted young tenor has performed with the likes of Lira, Bryn Terfel, in several opera productions as well as and on the main stage of New York’s Glimmerglass Festival.
Victoria Stevens (24)
Victoria obtained her BMus in opera cum laude from the University of Cape Town before embarking on an MMus at the prestigious Alexander Gibson Opera School of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, where she is currently based. The accolades of this Capetonian lyric soprano to date include the Ruth Ormond Award for most promising singer at UCT, first places in the UCTSSO Concerto Competition and the Schock Foundation Voice Competition, and being a finalist in the Oxford Lieder Young Artist Recital. She also has several performance credits to her name.
Amy Campbell (23)
Amy completed her BMus, specialising in jazz studies (performance), with distinction at the University of Cape Town – receiving full marks for her final recital performance, a rare feat. She was part of the UCT Jazz Voices ensemble and has performed at the Arcevia Jazz Feast in Italy and Artscape’s World Aids Day gala concert as a solo artist, as well as at the Joy of Jazz in Johannesburg with the Standard Bank National Youth Jazz Band. This young Capetonian vocalist is already in high demand on the local jazz performance circuit.
Mikhaela Kruger (23)
Possessed of a rare soulfulness beyond her years, Mikhaela undertook a BMus, specialising in jazz composition and arrangement, at the University of Cape Town, graduating with distinction in 2013. This Cape Town resident was chosen to perform in the Standard Bank National Youth Jazz Band at the National Arts Festival and Joy of Jazz, and also in the summer jazz programme at the Conservatorium of Amsterdam in association with the Manhattan School of Music. Her local performances include Jazz in the Park at Maynardville and with Imogen Heap at the Paul Cluver wine estate.
Zoë Modiga (21)
Born in Durban and raised in Pietermaritzburg, Zoë moved to Johannesburg to attend the National School of the Arts and pursued her studies in jazz at the University of Cape Town from 2012 to 2014. This young singer-songwriter has already performed at the Aardklop, Joy of Jazz and Cape Town International Jazz festivals, and has shared stages with many of the industry’s established luminaries. She has sung on recordings by The Kiffness and the Frank Paco Art Ensemble, and has been the vocalist for jazz act Breakfast Included for the past three years.
Nelmarie Rabie (30)
Pretoria-based Nelmarie was chosen as a semi-finalist in the ATKV Crescendo Competition at the age of 18. She studied jazz at the Tshwane University of Technology, graduating in 2006 and going on to reach the semi-finals of the 2007 SAMRO Overseas Scholarships Competition. Nelmarie has performed widely on stages across the country and as far afield as Abu Dhabi, with the all-female group La Diva and as a solo artist. She recorded an album in 2013 and completed her B.Mus honours at the University of Pretoria the same year, graduating cum laude.
Kwena Ramahuta (27)
Kwena is in the final year of his BMus degree, majoring in jazz studies, at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. He is one of the top students and an active performer at the university lunch-hour concerts on campus, as well as at his local church and in a professional jazz band he recently established. This Durbanite has sung with the KwaZulu-Natal Philharmonic Orchestra, and was part of the university’s exchange programme with the Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Virginia, in the United States.
Amy Walton (22)
Regarded as an excellent vocalist and a particularly creative musician – in composition, arrangement and performance – by her university superiors, Amy is currently in her final year in the jazz studies programme at the University of Cape Town. She has been an integral part of college ensembles such as the UCT Big Band and Jazz Voices, and has been performing at corporate functions and as a session singer, while serving as a jazz vocal coach. Among this Capetonian’s recent solo outings was the KwaZulu-Natal Philharmonic Orchestra’s Valentine’s Day concert.