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Twelve of the Best for SAMRO Foundation

Meet twelve of the best for SAMRO Foundation’s Overseas Scholarships Competition, 2016.

The SAMRO Foundation has announced the six Jazz and six Western Art Music semi-finalists who will compete in August for a shot at South Africa’s most alluring postgraduate music study award: two R200 000 scholarships to further their studies and professional development abroad sponsored by the SAMRO Foundation.

The finalists competed in the SAMRO Foundation’s Overseas Scholarships competition semi-final round in Johannesburg on Thursday 18 August 2016. They were judged by a topnotch panel of music professionals. Two Jazz and two Western Art Music finalists were then selected to square off against each other at the SAMRO Foundation Overseas Scholarships Competition finals, at Linder Auditorium on Saturday, 20 August 2016. They also performed a repertoire of their own choosing, while premiering new commissioned works by leading South African composers.

SAMRO Foundation Overseas Scholarships Finalists

Jazz Semi-Finalists

Keenan Ahrends (28)

Twelve of the Best for SAMRO Foundation
Keenan Ahrends.

Keenan is a Cape Town-based jazz guitarist who started playing at the age of 15. Since completing his jazz performance studies at the University of Cape Town (UCT) and the Norwegian Academy of Music in 2009, he has been actively involved in performing, composing and teaching. During his tertiary studies, he studied under the likes of Jon Eberson, Eckhard Baur, Alvin Dyers and Andrew Lilley. Keenan has collaborated with established musicians such as Carlo Mombelli, Shane Cooper, as well as international recording artists Somi and Salim Washington.

Justin Bellairs (26)

Twelve of the Best for SAMRO Foundation
Justin Bellairs.

Justin studied jazz performance, where he was tutored on saxophone by Prof Mike Rossi. He spent a year at the Norwegian Academy of Music in Oslo and played in its big band. Since then, he has performed professionally in several bands, musical productions and shows. Artists he has performed with include Andrew Lilley, Feya Faku, Marcus Wyatt, Kesivan Naidoo, Shane Cooper, Melanie Scholtz, Kyle Shepherd, Bokani Dyer and Nduduzo Makhathini. Justin has also played at various national jazz festivals, as well as in Norway, Sweden, Botswana, and the United States (including the prestigious Carnegie Hall with Kesivan and the Lights).

Siyasanga Charles (25)

Twelve of the Best for SAMRO Foundation
Siyasanga Charles.

Siyasanga is a tenor/bass trombonist who was born in Johannesburg and raised in Cape Town. She graduated with a Bachelor of Music (Honours) degree in jazz trombone performance with distinction at UCT in 2013 and is currently completing the final year of her Master’s degree, specialising in jazz trombone performance, at UCT. Siya has played in ensembles such as the Standard Bank National Youth Jazz Band and the South African National Youth Orchestra. She has performed at several local and international jazz festivals, from Italy to Nigeria.

Benjamin Jephta (23)

Twelve of the Best for SAMRO Foundation
Benjamin Jephta. ©Gregory Franz.

Benjamin is regarded as one of South Africa’s premier jazz double bass and electric bass players. Born in Mitchells Plain, his love of jazz was nurtured by Muizenberg High School music teacher Fred Kuit. Performing locally since the age of 15, Benjamin went on to play with orchestras and small ensembles in Africa, Europe and Asia. He graduated from UCT in 2013 with the fourth-year class medal. He has performed with jazz musicians such as Sibongile Khumalo, Simphiwe Dana, Hugh Masekela and Kyle Shepherd. His debut album, Homecoming, was nominated for Metro FM and SAMA awards.

Sidney Joseph Rash (29)

Twelve of the Best for SAMRO Foundation
Sidney Rash.

Sidney is quickly becoming an in-demand session drummer, and has already worked with premier South African and international artists (including Barry Gibb, French Montana, Paul Potts and Darius Brubeck). He is known for his musicality and versatility on the drums, and graduated with an Honours degree summa cum laude from the University of KwaZulu-Natal in 2008. Sidney has an ability to work in a range of styles, always bringing phenomenal energy to any project he is a part of. He also teaches drums in Durban, and is passionate about seeing the next generation of musicians achieve the very best that they can.

Linda Sikhakhane (24)

Twelve of the Best for SAMRO Foundation
Linda Sikhakhane.

Linda is a Johannesburg-based saxophonist, composer and arranger. He was born in Umlazi, where his love for music, especially jazz, was triggered at an early age. This saw him attending music classes and performing professionally since the age of 15. He later studied jazz at the University of KwaZulu-Natal under Prof Mageshen Naidoo. Linda has played with respected South African and international artists such as Barney Rachabane, Brian Thusi, Feya Faku, Marcus Wyatt, Gregory Porter and Malcolm Braff, as well as at local jazz festivals. He played tenor saxophone on Nduduzo Makhathini’s album Mother Tongue and formed part of Afrika Mkhize’s Septet and the group H3.


Matthew Lombard (29)

Twelve of the Best for SAMRO Foundation
Matthew Lombard.

Matthew is a Pretoria-based concert saxophonist and educator. After completing his post-graduate studies in the United Kingdom in 2013, Matthew started actively promoting the saxophone as a serious classical instrument in South Africa. He initiated the first National Saxophone Symposium in partnership with Prof Karendra Devroop and the UNISA Music Foundation in 2014. This was followed by a national tour inspired by the event entitled “Battle of the Saxes” during the first symposium. The second such symposium was hosted earlier this year to great success. Matthew has been offered a doctoral position for saxophone performance at the University of California in Los Angeles which he pursued in September 2016.

Sally Minter (28)

Twelve of the Best for SAMRO Foundation
Sally Minter.

Sally graduated with a Master of Arts degree with merit from the Royal Academy of Music in London where she studied with renowned flautist Paul Edmund-Davies. During her time in London, Sally performed under the baton of esteemed conductor Marin Alsop. Obtaining her Bachelor of Music from UCT with distinction under Bridget Rennie Salonen, Sally was awarded the class medal for three consecutive years for achieving the highest aggregate. Highlights of her South African performance career as a flautist include playing as a concerto soloist with every major orchestra in the country, and winning the Fine Music Radio Nussbaum Competition.

Myles Roberts (24)

Twelve of the Best for SAMRO Foundation
Myles Roberts.

Within a year of starting flute lessons at 13, Myles was already performing as a soloist. Since then, he has played as a soloist with some of South Africa’s leading orchestras as well as under German maestro Martin Wettges. Myles was named most outstanding flautist in the 2015 Galway Flute Festival in Switzerland. He has served as the principal flute of the National Youth Orchestra and the Stellenbosch International Chamber Music Festival Orchestra. He completed a Master’s degree under the tutelage of Prof Corvin Matei.

Neil Robertson (21)

Twelve of the Best for SAMRO Foundation
Neil Robertson.

Neil started playing piano at the age of eight, flute at 10 and organ at 14, excelling in all three instruments. He started studying at UCT in 2013 with Bridget Rennie Salonen (flute) and Grant Bräsler (organ). Neil has participated in many competitions for both instruments, and recently won the second instrument category in the Suider-Afrikaanse Kerkorrelistevereniging Bursary Competition. Performances include an organ concerto with baroque ensemble Camerata Tinta Barocca. He is also the full-time organist at Rondebosch United Church. Neil has stayed on the Dean’s Merit List since 2013 and is one of three orchestra managers at UCT’s South African College of Music.

Dylan Tabisher (27)

Twelve of the Best for SAMRO Foundation
Dylan Tabisher.

Dylan started playing percussion in 2002 with Suzette Brits at the Hugo Lambrechts Music Centre. He completed his BMus with Hons and MMus cum laude at Stellenbosch University. In 2012, Dylan was selected with his duo partner, Cherilee Adams, as the overall winners of the ATKV Muziq competition. In 2013, the university’s percussion duo was named semi-finalists in the Universal Marimba Competition in Belgium. Dylan is an active performer and has appeared as a soloist with the Cape Town, KwaZulu-Natal and Stellenbosch University orchestras.

Tatiana Thaele (26)

Twelve of the Best for SAMRO Foundation
Tatiana Thaele.

Flautist Tatiana has appeared as a soloist with most of South Africa’s larger orchestras. She was an ATKV competition semi-finalist in 2013 and 2016, and won the tertiary category in the 2014 Grahamstown Music Competition, receiving an additional prize for the best woodwind player. She has attended master classes with Susan Milan, Hansgeorg Schmeiser and Philippe Boucly amongst others. Upon invitation, she studied with Schmeiser at the University of Music and Performing Arts in Vienna from 2014 to 2015, and obtained her Master’s degree in music with distinction from UCT this year.

All images are courtesy of the SAMRO Foundation.

For more information on the SAMRO Foundation Overseas Scholarships Competition, please visit their website.

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