Four young singers vie for top honours in Saturday’s SAMRO Overseas Scholarships Competition final, following Thursday’s tough intermediate round. Adjudicators have selected Western Art vocal powerhouses Levy Sekgapane (24) and Andiswa Makana (29) and Jazz songstresses Zoë Modiga (21) and Amy Campbell (23) as the most impressive of 12 semi-finalists who were put through their paces at Johannesburg’s Linder Auditorium on 27 August 2015.

 The four will now proceed to the final round on Saturday, 29 August 2015, with their sights set firmly on clinching one of two R170 000 scholarships for international study. 

All candidates have completed at least three years of music studies at tertiary education institutions in South Africa, and each one has the potential to make a successful career out of their passion – singing.

Thursday’s intermediate round first saw the six Western Art music semi-finalists – three tenors and three sopranos – each having 20-25 minutes to dazzle a panel of adjudicators drawn from the top echelons of music practice and academia. 

Candidates were required to perform their own choice of repertoire as well as a prescribed composition, !ke e:/xarra//ke by Neo Muyanga, inspired by the preamble to the National Development Plan (NDP). 

While the bar was set extremely high, only two Western Art singers could progress to the next round, and Sekgapane and Makana ultimately made the cut. 

Kroonstad-born Sekgapane is a University of Cape Town BMus graduate and recently won the 2015 Belvedere International Singing Competition for young opera singers. Makana, from Port Elizabeth, is a Tshwane University of Technology graduate who is currently enrolled for a Master’s degree at the Hochschule für Musik und Tanz in Cologne, Germany. 

In the jazz genre, the remaining six semi-finalists extended their vocal chords to perform a second prescribed work, We Know by James Bassingthwaighte, also inspired by the NDP, as well as their own selection of songs. They also each had 20-25 minutes to sing for a spot in the final round. 

After a nail-biting wait, Campbell and Modiga were announced as the two finalists, each with one hand on this year’s jazz scholarship crown. Both have studied music at UCT and performed at the Joy of Jazz. Campbell has sung at various festivals, and is already in hot demand on the local and international jazz performance circuit. Durban-born Modiga has chalked up a number of solo performances and recordings, and has shared stages with many of the industry’s established luminaries.

 The panel of adjudicators was extremely impressed by all 12 candidates. Two dual-genre paneslists, UNISA music professor Karendra Devroop and multi-award-winning South African music legend Sibongile Khumalo, were lavish in their praise of the semi-finalists’ quality of performance. 

Said Khumalo: “Very recently I have had the privilege to observe and contribute to several South African music competitions and showcases of our country’s young talent. From a bird’s eye view, I am thoroughly impressed by not just the quality of musicianship in these arenas, but the hard work, discipline and respect for craft that is inherent in these young people. 

“The SAMRO Overseas Scholarships Competition’s 2015 semi-finalists were no exception. While two finalists [in each genre] shone above the rest, it is clear that all candidates understand the importance of balancing innate talent with the pursuit of educational excellence in positioning themselves to excel on the global stage.” 

Devroop agreed: “What a joy to be a part of this incredible event! There is no doubt that the standard of performance from candidates in both categories is the highest it has ever been in the country. Congratulations to SAMRO for hosting yet another outstanding competition.”

On Saturday night, the panel will again assemble, under the guidance of non-voting chairman Leon van Wyk, to determine winners in each genre and recipients of several subsidiary awards. Western Art music adjudicators are Eugenie Chopin, Lize Coetzer, Conroy Cupido, Hanna van Niekerk and Thami Zungu. Jazz adjudicators are Gloria Bosman, Motsumi Makhene, Sibongile Mngoma, Nicky Schrire and Lydia vom Hagen. All are music industry luminaries in their own right.

The final live round of the SAMRO Overseas Scholarships Competition will take place at 6.30pm at the Linder Auditorium in Parktown, Johannesburg, on Saturday, 29 August 2015 where candidates will perform once more, accompanied by professional musicians. The evening will also feature a keynote address by Professor Njabulo Ndebele and special guest performances by the TUT Big Band. For more information, email