UCT Jazz students excel in Grahamstown

1 Aug 2014 - 09:30

The 2014 National Youth Jazz Band, pictured L-R: Robin Fassie-Kock (trumpet), Kurt Bowers (drums), Blake Hellaby (piano), Murray Buitendag (trombone), Ryan McArthur (bass), Palesa Modiga (vocal), Amy Campbell (vocal), Mark Fransman (leader) & Mikhaela Kruger (vocal)

Each year, the tiny Eastern Cape town of Grahamstown plays host to the annual Standard Bank National Youth Jazz Festival. Close to 300 young musicians and over 50 educators and professionals participated in this year’s event. Among them, students from the South African College of Music, who comprised the festival’s National Youth Jazz Band.

The music festival runs for 10 days, alongside the National Arts Festival. Previous events have attracted leading musicians from around countries including Argentina, Australia, Great Britain, Netherlands, America and Zimbabwe. According to festival management, the objective behind this annual event is to promote local jazz development by providing educational opportunities for talented individuals. According to Festival Director, Alan Webster, the event provides an important networking opportunity for musicians. “The Standard Bank National Youth Jazz Festival is a nodal meeting point for all role players in the South African jazz industry – professionals, teachers and students from around the country, as well as administrators, technicians and audiences. This year was a particularly special festival, with world-class jazz performance, a wide array of interesting teaching, an improved standard of playing from students, and significant interest in the jazz from audiences and the media" said Alan Webster.

The country’s top students vie for a coveted spot in either the Standard Bank National Schools Big Band (this year, directed by Associate Professor Mike Campbell from the South African College of Music) or the National Youth Jazz Band (NYJB). This year, all members of the NYJB are University of Cape Town jazz students and alumni. In an unprecedented outcome, three jazz singers were chosen for the band, all students of Amanda Tiffin a lecturer at the South African College of Music (SACM). The 2014 band is directed by acclaimed pianist, saxophonist and UCT alumnus Mark Fransman which is an additional feather in the SACM cap.  “All participants gain a lot in experience through exposure to leading jazz musicians from around the world. There is prestige in being chosen for the NYJB, and an acknowledgement of ones achievement” said Associate Professor Mike Campbell, who is Head of Jazz Studies at the SACM. The band will continue to perform at various festivals throughout the country during the course of this year and into 2015.