In what can be described as Night of the Pianists, pianists ruled the roost at the final round of the 2014 SAMRO Hubert van der Spuy Music Competition. However, in this competition for fledgling instrumentalists in Cape Town on Friday night, the only strings player, 13 year old cellist Alexander Whitehead from Johannesburg laughed last by reaping gold away from the seven pianists in the final. 

The 26th final of its kind took place on Friday night (3 October) before a capacity crowd in the imposing Hugo Lambrechts Auditorium in Parow, Cape Town.   André le Roux, Executive General Manager of the SAMRO Foundation, believes the competition exemplifies their commitment to unearthing and nurturing fledgling music talent. “Cultivating music talent ‘from roots to fruits’, we encourage exceptional youth to pursue careers in music and enrich the country’s cultural landscape. We are very satisfied with the number and quality of South African compositions entered this year.” 

Hilda Boonzaaier, who chairs the SASMT: Tygerberg, thanked the SAMRO Foundation for their support. She said they were extremely proud that an array of alumni of the competition last year captured virtually all the major prizes available to young musicians in South Africa. This demonstrated what profound artistic development the competition and the SASMT members had inspired over the years. 

From initially 65 competitors in the first two rounds and 25 in the third, the eight finalists were Beate Boshoff (13, from Betlehem); Iman Bulbulia (12, Johannesburg); Jacqueline Choi (12, Durbanville); Leo Gevisser (11, Newlands, Cape Town); Leo Huan (11, Pretoria); Ah-Young Moon (11, Stellenbosch); Louis Nel (13, Pretoria); and Alexander Whitehead (13, Dunkeld). 

Apart from Whitehead on cello, all the finalists were pianists. Choi, Moon and Whitehead also reached the final last year. Eventually the gold medal and the substantial Johanna van der Spuy Prize went to Alexander Whitehead, a student of Takao Mizushima in Australia via skype. 

Two students of Mario Nell, the pianists Iman Bulbulia from Johannesburg and Ah-Young Moon from Stellenbosch, claimed the silver and bronze medals respectively. 

Category prizes went to Ah-Young Moon (Piano), Alexander Whitehead (Strings) and Kyra Burnett from Birdhaven, Johannesburg (Woodwinds). 

The individual winners in the category for development groups were Busisiwe Mashita from Soshanguwe (Strings) and Roshnay Britz from Kalksteenfontein (Woodwinds).  Best performance prizes were presented to Alexander Whitehead (Baroque 1st round), Leo Huan from Pretoria (Classical 2nd round) and Jacqueline Choi from Durbanville (Romantic 3rd round). 

The best performance prizes for South African compositions went to Leo Gevisser from Newlands, Cape Town for “Moments of Night” by Peter Klatzow; Louis Nel from Pretoria for “Jazz Impromptu 1” by A Johnson and Alexander Whitehead for “Scherzo” by Alan Stepenson.  Violinist Juliette Roux from Rondebosch won the prize for the most promising candidate (ten and younger). The most promising candidate from the development projects was considered to be Roshnay Britz from the most successful development project Kalksteenfontein, Cape Town. 

Two special prizes in honour of the late Leon Hartshorne, were presented, one to Beate Boshoff as the highest scoring student of a national SASMT member, and the other to her teacher, Jenny Reed. 

UNISA prizes were awarded to the winners of the various categories. 

The national competition for fledgling instrumentalists was introduced in 1989 by the Tygerberg branch of the SA Society of Music Teachers (SASMT) and Sanlam as sponsor. The SAMRO Foundation came on board four years ago. The participants had been selected after auditions in Pretoria, Bloemfontein, Durban and Cape Town. They competed over two rounds before being narrowed down to 25 semi-finalists for the third round on Thursday and eight finalists for the gala concert on Friday night. 

Full particulars about competition at 


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