The 13-year old cellist Sinéad Symons from Brackenfell, Western Cape, accompanied by her father James, claimed the gold medal in Parow, Cape Town on Friday night at the second SAMRO Hubert van der Spuy National Music Competition.  She is a student of Marian Lewis and also bagged the Strings category prize, the second prize for her performance of a South African composition and the third prize for a Romantic work in the third round.

The competition over four rounds started on Tuesday (24 September) at the Hugo Lambrechts Auditorium in Parow and was the 24th of its kind presented by the SA Society of Music Teachers: Tygerberg. 

In the final round Sinéad had to outperform a strong contingent of seven other finalists: the pianists Zoë Coetzee, 12 (Welgemoed, Bellville), Emily Morgan, 10 (Grahamstown), Swunhtat Oo , 13 (Harrismith) and Fan Simon Wu, 12 (Milnerton); the cellists  Arjen van Renssen , 12 (Pretoria) and Alexander Whitehead, 11 (Dunkeld, Johannesburg) and on recorder, Althea Steynberg, 13 (Linden, Johannesburg).

[NOTE:  Arjen van Renssen is a student of Anzél Gerber, the very first winner of this national competition in 1978, currently a professor at the University of Pretoria Music Department]

In the category for students from disadvantaged communities, the most promising candidate was the violinist Ramabole Rampeta (14, from Bloemfontein).  He is a student of Francois Henkins whose Manguang String Project was adjudged the best development programme.


The full list of winners is as follows:

  • First prize (gold medal plus Johanna van der Spuy prize of R10 000): Sinéad Symons (13, cello), student of Marian Lewin;
  • Second prize (silver medal plus R6 500: Althea Steynberg (13, recorder), student of Tiensie-Louise Lategan;
  • Third prize (bronze medal plus R4 000): Alexander Whitehead (11, cello), student of Takao Mizushima from Sydney, Australia).  [NOTE:  Since moving to South Africa in 2010, he has been learning with Takao Mizushima via skype.  His sister, Frances, on violin, won the silver medal last year.)


Category prizes of R2 000 each (plus a UNISA prize):

  • Piano: Swunhtat Oo, 13 (Harrismith)
  • Strings: Sinéad Symons
  • Woodwinds & Brass: Caylee Fitzgerald (13, flute, Bryanston, teacher:  Malané Hofmeyr-Burger)
  • Other instruments: Althea Steynberg.


Development candidates: Category prizes of R500 each:

  • Strings:   Ramabole Rampeta (14, from Bloemfontein)
  • Woodwinds & Brass: Rozay Apollis, 13, flute (Bluedowns, Western Cape)


Most promising candidate (10 years and under) (R1 500 prize):

  • Emily Morgan, 10 (Grahamstown)


Most promising development candidate (R1 000):  

  • Ramabole Rampeta


Most successful development project (R5 000):  

  • Mangaung Strings, Bloemfontein


Best performance prizes (R1 500 each): 

  • Baroque (first round): Althea Steynberg
  • Classical (second round): Swunhtat Oo
  • Romantic (third round): Sinéad Symons


Best performance of South African compositions:

  • First prize (R3 000): Althea Steynberg
  • Second prize (R2 000): Sinéad Symons
  • Third prize (R1 000): Annerike du Plessis, 13, piano (Bellville)


Best candidate of a member from SA Society of Music Teachers: Tygerberg:  

  • Nicholas Bosman, 13 (violin, teacher:  Elzaan Coetzee) 

The pianist Rikus Kriel from Pretoria, a student of Claudine van Breda, was awarded a prize for qualifying every single year since grade 1.

The adjudicators were highly impressed by the preparation put into their performances by the participants. They were Nina Schumann (acclaimed pianist, associate professor and head of Piano at the University of Stellenbosch), Felicia Lesch (celebrated musician, academic, administrator and adjudicator, inter alia of the 2012 SAMRO Overseas Scholarship Competition) and Kutlwano Masote (member of the artistic Committee of the SAMRO Foundation and acknowledged music adjudicator).  

The Executive General Manager: SAMRO Foundation, André le Roux, was ecstatic about the general standard of the participants.  “The finalists had their work cut out to get another chance in the final round to impress the adjudicators and their performances were sheer enjoyment.  The sample of the emerging talent from primary school level that we experienced during the competition, bodes well for the future of classical music in our country,” he remarked.  He hopes they will continue honing their skills to the extent that they qualify for the SAMRO Overseas Scholarships.

The SAMRO Hubert van der Spuy National Music Competition is organised by the Tygerberg branch of the South African Society of Music Teachers, with prizes worth more than R50 000 for the winners and their teachers.  It is sponsored by SAMRO Foundation, UNISA, the ATKV, the Hugo Lambrechts Music Centre, the City of Cape Town, FMR, Music@Work and other donors. 

Visit to find out more about SAMRO’s investment in music education and development.

For media queries please contact Vanessa Perumal on: [t] 011 788 7631 or [m] or André Coetzee 083 709 7065.