Disturbing the peace
11 July 2012 | SIBUSISO MKWANAZI
Crime: disturbing the peace. Scene: Parnassus Farm, Magaliesburg. Perpetrators: South African National Youth Orchestra. Sentence: bringing pleasure to lovers of classical music for the rest of their lives.
Witnessing members of the South African National Orchestra (Sanyo) being taken through what it means to be a professional musicians, as part of the Sasol Sanyo Course gives observers a sense of just how much work goes into this craft, but not in the traditional sense of the word “work”.
First of all, a hard day for these youngsters includes practising the same piece of music until they get it right. With each of the four classes comprising about 50 kids each, things are bound to get out of hand as the conductors and specialist instrumental instructors wag fingers in an attempt for them to get the music spot on.
But just like any other kids they become restless and start misbehaving, and this is when the mischief and genius comes through. In this state, delinquents from the string and wind sections go off on a tangent and do not stop playing immediately when instructed to.
Unauthorised solos represent rebellion to the teachers, but to the audience, it is musical freedom that justifies why these chosen few have earned a spot in this course.
“They learn about each other, other countries, cultures and a holistic approach to being a musician. They also get taught what it means to be part of a group such as an orchestra,” says Sophia Welz, managing director of Sanyo.
“It is not as easy as it seems.
They have to learn discipline because there are parts of songs where they have to play with intensity and others where they have to be very quiet. They are also deliberately put under immense pressure here at the course to teach them about the real world of being musicians.”
A crucial part of the course has to do with an inevitable part of being a musician: the audition process.
“They are just like job interviews, but with instruments things can become a whole lot more tricky,” says Welz.
“And because not everyone can end up on the first chair, these performers get taught about disappointment too.
“For these kids to be here, they have to make it through two rounds of blind auditions – which are done anonymously – and this means that everyone here was chosen purely based on their musical skills.”
Pressure, discipline, interviews, auditions. Are they running a musical boot camp or do the musicians get to have some fun, like play pop renditions of our national anthem or mess with a Mozart classic?
“These are creatives and this course is here to enhance that. During one of their breaks, the horn section decided to go up the mountain and divide themselves into two groups.
They then separated and had a musical duel to see which group would be the loudest and most musical. It was spectacular to witness that,” Welz laughs.
“Hauling all those instruments up the mountain could not have been easy at all, for a start.”
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