Thirteen young keyboard maestros will do “hand to hand combat” in the SAMRO Overseas Scholarships Competition in August.

This week, the SAMRO Foundation unveiled the semi-finalists who have been selected to compete for one of the most sought-after music education awards in Jazz and Western Art music.

After testing their skills and endurance during another two intensive rounds of competition, the two winners will each receive a R200 000 scholarship to pursue their professional development internationally.

The 2017 semi-finalists are:

Western Art Music: Peter Cartwright, Willem de Beer, Lourens Fick, Megan-Geoffrey Prins and Bronwyn van Wieringen (all piano), as well as Neil Robertson (organ)

Jazz: Lifa Arosi, Elizabeth Gaylord, Blake Hellaby, Teboho Kobedi, Ntando Ngcapo, Thandi Ntuli and Nicholas Williams (all piano)

“Due to an unusually strong field of candidates combined with a tough adjudication process, for the first time in the competition’s 55 year history more than 12 candidates were selected to proceed through to the semi-finals round” noted SAMRO Foundation Managing Director André le Roux. This was as a result of the marginal call between the adjudicators’ scores and their ranking of candidates.  Therefore it was decided to allow ‘the magnificent seven’ candidates instead of six in the Jazz category.

Interestingly, four candidates are making repeat appearances this year: three participated the previous time the SAMRO Overseas Scholarships Competition was held for keyboard players in 2013 and another candidate took part in the instrumentalists contest just last year.

Two of this year’s jazz semi-finalists, Lifa Arosi and Nicholas Williams are hoping for second time lucky. Arosi won the SAMRO/De Waal Award in 2013 and Williams was the runner-up to Bokani Dyer that year while also scooping two subsidiary awards.

Furthermore, Megan-Geoffrey Prins was the Western Art music runner-up (to winner Jan Hugo) in 2013 and won a string of additional prizes too for his prowess on the piano.

In an extraordinary twist, multi-talented Neil Robertson was a semi-finalist in the 2016 SAMRO Overseas Scholarships Competition for instrumentalists, as a flautist – walking off with the SAMRO/Bonhams Music Study Award. Just one year later, he has again made it to the semi-finals but this time as the only organist, proving he has several strings to his musical bow.

“The fact that these four gifted instrumentalists have entered again demonstrates not only the prestige attached to this competition but also their tenacity.  Through this competition and our other programmes we are steadily growing the SAMRO alumni to include young musicians who feel they have a welcoming and nurturing home in the organisation together with many of our other cultural ambassadors” Le Roux said.

“We pride ourselves on remaining closely involved in the career trajectories of these bright young stars as they navigate their way through the ranks of the local and global music industry” said Nothando Migogo, newly appointed SAMRO CEO.

The 13 semi-finalists will now be flexing their fingers in preparation for the semi-final round on Thursday, 24 August 2017, at UNISA’s ZK Matthews Hall in Pretoria, ahead of the much-anticipated final round on Saturday, 26 August 2017, at the same venue.

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