South African College of Music winners in Classical and Jazz at UNISA National Piano Competition

12 Jul 2023 | By Fiona Grayer
12 Jul 2023 | By Fiona Grayer

Established in 1990 the Unisa Music Foundation's mission is to promote music in all its forms and expressions at the University of South Africa. The UNISA Music Foundation presents national music competitions biennially in exactly the same format as its international music competitions with the specific aim to accustom young South African musicians to the stringent standards applied internationally. In 2015 a jazz category was added running parallel to the classical category during the UNISA National Piano Competition.

The competition ran over a period of 1 week from 1-8 July 2023 at the ZK Matthews Great Hall in Pretoria and consisted of 4 rounds, adjudicated by a panel of widely recognised and experienced professional musicians and academics.

Artistic Director of the Unisa Music Competitions, Prof Karendra Devroop states, “Our music competitions provide a stage where talented pianists from all walks of life can demonstrate their abilities, foster a sense of inclusivity and break down barriers that may exist in South African society. The embracing of jazz had a profound impact on our piano competition in 2015 in breaking down stereotypes and fostering inclusivity of the various cultures and artforms that exist in our country. It has enabled pianists from diverse backgrounds to share the stage in an environment of competition yet mutual respect.”

In the final round of the competition, classical finalists, Gerhard Joubert and Isaac van der Merwe, were accompanied by the Johannesburg Festival Orchestra, conducted by Daniel Boico. Jazz finalists Sibonelo Nxumalo and Brathew van Schalkwyk were accompanied by Shaun Johannes on bass and Rob Watson on drums.

UNISA Chancellor HE Dr Thabo Mbeki and Vice-Chancellor Prof Puleng Lenkabula thanked everyone for coming and the candidates for participating in the 7th UNISA National Piano Competition and wished the prize winners success in all of their future endeavours. “To the participants, your presence here today is evidence of your exceptional talents and unwavering determination. Countless hours of practice, a strong sense of discipline, and unwavering dedication have brought you all to this stage,” said Prof Lenkabula in her closing address. She encouraged students to continue the habit of excellence and reminded all “that true greatness lies within the realm of creativity and expression.”

Our sincere congratulations go to the prize-winners and lecturers who are flying the UCT flag high!

1st Prize Classical Winner Gerhard Joubert (UCT, lecturer Prof Francois du Toit)

1st  Prize Jazz Winner Brathew van Schalkwyk (UCT, lecturer Prof Andrew Lilley)

2nd Prize Classical Winner Isaac van der Merwe (UCT, lecturer Prof Francois du Toit)

2nd Prize Jazz Winner: Sibonelo Nxumalo (UKZN)

3rd prize Classical winner Simon Wu (UCT, lecturer Prof Francois du Toit)