It was second time lucky on Saturday for jazz pianist Bokani Dyer, who won a SAMRO Overseas Scholarship during the final round of the competition.
Capetonian Dyer (27), the recipient of the 2011 Standard Bank Young Artist Award for Jazz, had first entered the SAMRO competition for keyboard players four years ago but had to be content with the runner-up prize in the Jazz/Popular Music category in 2009.
He has clearly honed and perfected his skills on the keys since, and beat out stiff competition from fellow finalist and Capetonian Nicholas Williams (27) during a hard-fought contest at the SABC’s M1 studio in Auckland Park on Saturday, 31 August 2013.
Dyer, the son of South African jazz luminary Steve Dyer, clinched a lucrative R170 000 scholarship to fund his post-graduate music studies at an international educational institution. Williams walked off with R40 000 plus a R5 000 cheque for the best performance of a prescribed work and the SAMRO/Fisher Award of R6 500.
In the Western Art Music section, Bloemfontein-born pianist Jan Hugo (22), who is currently based in Italy, blew the judges away with his virtuoso performance of four piano works and was declared the winner of the R170 000 scholarship in that category.
However, he faced a stiff challenge from the mesmerising musician Megan-Geoffrey Prins (also 22). The youngster from Riversdale in the Cape claimed the runner-up prize of R40 000 and cleaned up the subsidiary prizes, claiming the SAMRO/Flink Study Award of R28 000, the R6 500 SAMRO/Fisher Award and the R5 000 prize for the best performance of a prescribed work.
The musical duel in the two categories played out in front of an appreciative audience, who were constantly kept guessing about who the winners would be thanks to the high calibre of performance. The four finalists were captivating, showing all-round excellence on the keys, while being put through their paces with a selection of works of their own choosing as well as prescribed compositions.
The four had made it to the finals of this prestigious annual competition after first being evaluated based on original recordings they had submitted to SAMRO, and then competing against 10 of their fellow pianists in the intermediate round, held at the same venue two days previously.
The evening’s entertainment opened with the Western Art Music category, which saw Hugo performing Mozart’s Sonata No. 14 in C minor, KV. 457: I Molto Allegro, Rachmaninoff’s Etude Tableau Op. 39, No. 3 in F-sharp minor, Bartók’s Klänge der Nacht and Die Jagd from Im Freien, as well as the prescribed work, klavierstuk 2 by the late South African composer and 1972 SAMRO scholarship winner Roelof Temmingh.
Prins followed with a performance of Haydn’s Sonata in E-flat major, Hob. 52: I. Allegro (Moderato), Chopin’s Étude No. 5 in E minor, Op. 25, Hamelin’s Étude No. 9 in F minor: La Danza from Twelve Études, and the Temmingh prescribed work.
Then it was the turn of the Jazz/Popular Music finalists, and Dyer kicked off with renditions of Bheki Mseleku’s Cycle, Thelonious Monk’s Trinkle, Tinkle, Hoagy Carmichael and Johnny Mercer’s Skylark and the prescribed piece, Carlo Mombelli’s Quick Study No. 2.
Williams opted to perform Charles Lloyd’s Forest Flower, H Schiller’s Grassy Park, Herbie Hancock’s Dolphin Dance and the Mombelli composition. Both candidates were accompanied by Victor Masondo on double bass and Rob Watson on drums.
Other prizes handed out on the night to promising candidates who had made it through to the intermediate round but not the finals, were the Jazz/Popular Music merit award of R10 000 that went to Durban’s Sibusiso Mashiloane (29) and the Western Art Music merit award also of R10 000 that was given to Daniel Strahilevitz (24), who is originally from Johannesburg but it currently based in Israel. The SAMRO/De Waal study award of R7 000 was secured by jazz candidate Lifa Arosi (24), who hails from Johannesburg.
The SAMRO Overseas Scholarships have been awarded every year to deserving candidates since 1962. Presented by the SAMRO Foundation, which promotes music education and development in the country, these coveted awards have launched and elevated many a young musician’s career over the years.
They rotate on a four-yearly basis among different music disciplines: the 2013 awards rewarded keyboard players, while the 2014 scholarships will focus on composers, the 2015 competition on singers and the 2016 awards on instrumentalists.
For more information, email the SAMRO Foundation on email@example.com, visit www.samrofoundation.org.za, or follow @SAMROFoundation on Twitter or Facebook.