SAMRO scholarships contest sways to the sweet sounds of the Cape

Western Cape semi-finalists in the SAMRO Overseas Scholarship Competition 2016.
Western Cape semi-finalists in the SAMRO Overseas Scholarship Competition 2016.

There must be something in Western Cape air that breeds outstanding young musicians, with nine of the 12 SAMRO Overseas Scholarships semi-finalists for 2016 having studied at the universities of Cape Town and Stellenbosch.

Jazz instrumentalists Keenan Ahrends, Justin Bellairs, Siyasanga Charles and Benjamin Jephta all cut their musical teeth at UCT.

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In the Western Art Music category, semi-finalists Sally Minter, Neil Robertson and Tatiana Thaele also honed their craft at UCT, while Myles Roberts and Dylan Tabisher studied among the oaks and wine farms at Stellenbosch University.

They will join fellow semi-finalists Sidney Rash and Linda Sekhakhane (who studied jazz at the University of KwaZulu-Natal), and Matthew Lombard (a classical saxophonist from Pretoria), for the semi-final round of the SAMRO Overseas Scholarships Competition in Johannesburg on 18 August.

After performing for a panel of music industry professionals, two Jazz Music and two Western Art Music finalists will perform in the final round. This takes the form of a public concert – always an immensely entertaining and highly charged affair – at the Linder Auditorium in Parktown on Saturday, 20 August 2016.

The glittering prize all 12 semi-finalists have in their sights: two R200 000 scholarships from the SAMRO Foundation to further their music studies abroad, plus several additional awards.

About the fairest Cape’s young instrumental prodigies:

Jazz Music category

Keenan Ahrends
Keenan is a jazz guitarist who has collaborated with local musicians such as Louis Moholo, Andile Yenana, Carlo Mombelli, Afrika Mkhize, Herbie Tsoaeli and Buddy Wells, as well as international recording artists Somi, Salim Washington and Kevin Gibson.

Justin Bellairs
Justin, who plays alto saxophone, has performed in several bands and musical productions, including at jazz festivals, as well in Norway, Sweden, Botswana, and the United States (including the prestigious Carnegie Hall with Kesivan and the Lights).

Siyasanga Charles
Siya is a tenor/bass trombonist who is completing her Master’s degree at UCT. She has played in the Standard Bank National Youth Jazz Band, the Mahler Chamber Orchestra, the Jeunesses Musicales Jazz World Orchestra and at several international jazz festivals.

Benjamin Jephta
Benjamin is a jazz double bass and electric bass player. Born in Mitchells Plain, he has played with local jazz luminaries, orchestras and ensembles in Africa, Europe and Asia. His debut album, Homecoming, was nominated for Metro FM and SAMA awards.

Western Art Music category

Sally Minter
Sally holds an MA from the Royal Academy of Music in London. Highlights of her 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
Myles has performed as a soloist with South Africa’s leading orchestras and was named the most outstanding flautist in the 2015 Galway Flute Festival in Switzerland. He is currently enrolled at the Civica Scuola di Musica Claudio Abbado in Milan.

Neil Robertson
Neil excels at playing both the flute and the organ, and has competed in many competitions for both instruments. He is the full-time organist at Rondebosch United Church and is the orchestra manager at UCT’s South African College of Music.

Dylan Tabisher
Dylan was named overall winner with his percussion duo partner in the ATKV Muziq competition in 2012, and reached the semi-finals of marimba competitions in Stuttgart and Belgium. He has appeared as a marimba soloist with several national orchestras.

Tatiana Thaele
Flautist Tatiana has appeared as a soloist with most of South Africa’s larger orchestras. She won the tertiary category in the 2014 Grahamstown Music Competition, and studied at the University of Music and Performing Arts in Vienna from 2014 to 2015.

To find out more about attending the finals of the SAMRO Overseas Scholarships Competition at the Linder Auditorium on Saturday, 20 August 2016, email For tickets to the finals, visit

Visit for more information on the SAMRO Foundation’s programmes and projects, or follow @SAMROFoundation on Twitter and Facebook.

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