Neil has been the only organist chosen for this year’s SAMRO Overseas Scholarships competition for Keyboard Players, is certainly an exceptionally gifted musician. In 2016, he graduated with distinctions in Flute, Organ, Music Theory & Analysis, and Chamber Music at the South African College of Music, University of Cape Town. In addition, he made it unto the Dean’s Merit List during his undergraduate studies. Last year, Neil entered the SAMRO Overseas Scholarships Competition for Instrumentalists as one of four flautists to make it to the semi-final round. This year he, once again, was chosen as a semi-finalist to participate in the competition for keyboard players. The competition this year will take place at the ZK Matthews Hall at UNISA which hosts the the famed Rieger Organ that incorporates 55 stops and some 3500 pipes, spread over the three manuals and pedals. Just after this year’s semifinalists were announced Neil withdrew from the competition. ‘Why would a brilliant young musician pull out of such a prestigious event?’ you ask. Because his dream to study abroad was fortuitously granted. Neil recently auditioned for a Master’s in Music at three of the five schools to which he applied in the USA. He was successful in all these endeavours, being offered a place at three, and wait-listed at two. He also received scholarship offers from two prestigious universities, which, in itself, is an outstanding achievement.
Neil has been fortunate enough to be accepted as a master’s student at the University of Michigan where he will be starting in September. Apart from the generous scholarship he received upon admission, he has received support from the Friends of Orchestral Music, the Apollo Music Trust, and most recently from the Oppenheimer Memorial Trust. This opportunity is just too good for him to turn down. Nevertheless, Neil remains on good terms with the SAMRO Foundation, and in his withdrawal message he stated: ‘As a result of all these developments, I am regrettably forced to withdraw from this year’s scholarships competition. I would rather pass on this incredible opportunity to another deserving candidate who hasn’t participated before AND who needs the financial support SAMRO offers. I would feel terrible if I participated and wasn’t able to give it my all when another person could. I cannot thank [the SAMRO Foundation] enough for this immense honour, especially since it’s the second honour you’ve given me as I participated in the competition last year.’ The SAMRO Foundation’s Managing Director, André le Roux’s message to Neil was: “You are an amazing talent and we wish you well and hope to continuously follow your career as a cultural ambassador.” We wish Neil the greatest success in his fast growing career and will be sorry to miss him at this year’s Final Round event to be held on 26 August 2017.