Two Wynberg girls selected for the National Schools’ Big Band

Seven members of our Jazz Band – Anna Jacobs, Yeukai Chamba, Celeste Botha, Stacey Walker, Carla Stokes, Kim Cornelius and Rachel Suttle – were selected to attend the Standard Bank National Jazz Youth Festival this year, and I had the privilege of accompanying them. The purpose of the festival is to “set the stage for a national search for the finest young jazz talent in the country. Hopefuls between 13 and 26 years get the chance to play their hearts out for a prestigious place in one of two national bands – one at school level, and one representing the best players under the age of 26. After Grahamstown, the Standard Bank National Youth Jazz Band performs in leading jazz festivals around the country and this year will be performing in Sweden.”

On the first day of the festival there were 12 hours of auditions in which musicians between the ages of 13 and 18 competed to get into the National Schools’ Big Band. Whether or not the students were successful in their audition, the time spent in Grahamstown included rehearsals with a band including performers from around the country. From mid-morning until mid-afternoon they attended electives. This was followed by attendance at concerts at which they could hear the work of some of the finest national and international Jazz performers. Thereafter there were jam sessions until late into the night. Certainly it was a demanding programme, and for our musicians, an opportunity in a lifetime.

While several of our representatives were called back for second auditions, we were delighted that Carla Stokes and Kim Cornelius were selected to perform in the National Schools’ Big Band. Their conductor was James Bassingthwaighte, who was a member of the Standard Bank National Youth Big Band for 4 years as well as a member of the Standard Bank National Youth Jazz Band. He plays trombone and piano, taught at Cape Town schools and now directs a successful music business in Johannesburg.

Over the four days that he worked with the top young jazz musicians they rehearsed and prepared for concert on the 3rd July in the DSG Hall. The big band sound is described as “the most popular genre in jazz” and irrepressible, and certainly the audience appreciated the quality of their work as they gave the band a standing ovation. We bring their performance to you here.

Huge thanks must be extended to Kim Raad, trainer and conductor of our Jazz Band and who encouraged our girls to attend the festival and to audition for the National Schols’ Big Band. Congratulations to all of our girls who were superb ambassadors for the school, and particularly to Carla and Kim for their very significant achievement.

National Schools' Big Band - Carla Stokes

Picture 1 of 4