Magical music

The auditions for this year's Miagi Youth Orchestra course are in full swing.

Auditions are open to all young people aged 22 and under. There is no cost to participants because, wherever possible, Miagi does not exclude anyone who is unable to pay.

Aspiring musicians from all walks of life and from across South Africa are given a chance to develop their musical skills and to perform in a professional setting.

Applications also include many youth orchestra organisations. From Cape Town's Philharmonic Youth Orchestra to Soshanguve's Viola Project, Miagi is in contact with most youth-orchestra projects around the country.

One such project is the Eastern Cape Philharmonic Orchestra Investment Project in Port Elizabeth.

The teachers teach violin, viola, piano, brass instruments and woodwind instruments such as clarinet, bassoon, oboe, flute and saxophone.

The yearly Youth Orchestral Experience (YOE), which takes place during the September-October school holidays, attracts pupils from schools in Eastern Cape to audition for the youth symphony orchestra or the wind band.

At recent auditions, a number of YOE members, including young Sicelo Gomka, took part.

The Grade 11 pupil from Motherwell township has been playing trombone for four years and has spontaneously started teaching younger children in his neighbourhood.

Another young musician is Phakamile Msizi. He joined the project five years ago in his last year in primary school when he could hardly hold the bassoon.

Like most of the other pupils, Msizi had to start learning whatever was available in terms of instruments and teachers.

The audition process starts when applicants receive a piece of music for the final concert that takes place at the end of the course.

They must also prepare a solo piece. Each candidate has eight minutes to present at the audition.

To judge the auditions across the country, Miagi uses accomplished local instrumentalists, selected each year from a different section of the orchestra.

For fairness and consistency, the same judges, moderator and coordinator assess all the applicants.

This year Miagi will select 100 participants for the orchestra and jazz band.

By including as many organisations and individuals as possible this year, the audition process is casting its net much wider.

There have been 270 applications from across the country. Miagi is busy travelling to all major centres to audition hopeful young musicians.

Those who participated last year must audition again this year because the project is building the youth orchestra over a four-year period.

Every year ages and grades are raised by one year. This gives existing members a very good incentive to continue progressing and it also gives potential new members something to aspire to.

South Africa's cultural diversity blesses us with opportunities for cross-cultural synergy in meaningful and entertaining concert forms.

Miagi's synergies have seen collaborations between South African and international artists of the highest acclaim, such as violinist Maxim Vengerov, 2003 onwards; pianist Fazil Say, 2006 onwards; Soweto String Quartet and the Miagi Orchestra, 2002 onwards; percussionist Louis Moholo and jazz-pianist Irene Schweizer, 2004; Madosini and the Sontonga Quartet, 2001; the Ngqoko Women and Ladysmith Black Mambazo with the English Chamber Orchestra, 2001, 2003 and 2005.

For more information on Miagi, its youth orchestra and its festival, feel free to contact Lara Preston at Red Flag: 011-447-8283 or email her at