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The Diocesan School for Girls’ ‘Major Duo’ performs on the 2020 virtual National Arts Festival Fringe

| November 15, 2020 | 0 Comments


I am wary of using the word talent.

It makes success sound easy. It is so much more important to acknowledge what follows – the effort, hard work and investment of many. As a strings teacher at the Diocesan School for Girls (DSG) and St Andrew’s College (SAC) in Grahamstown (officially renamed Makhanda) in the Eastern Cape, it is a privilege to work with two particularly talented girls, Asive Ngcebetsha and Yolisa Ngcola.

Hailing from Makhanda, Ngcebetsha and Ngcola were awarded DSG music scholarships in 2017 and 2018 respectively. I had heard both girls perform in the SAC/DSG Youth Music Festival in 20161 and was astounded by their musical potential. Building on their solid Suzuki2 violin foundation skills, we worked extremely hard, initially on literacy. Months of technique and skills strengthening followed, as the two students expanded their repertoire. The strings programme at the SAC/DSG music school has developed enormously over the past seven years. Participation in ensembles, concerts and festivals is organised. Structure for practical graded examinations is provided. Musical activity is constantly encouraged for all the many instruments, ensembles and events on the go.

In an extraordinary short space of two-and-a-half-years, Ngcebetsha and Ngcola completed their violin music Grades IV to VIII, all with distinction, having had no previous experience of formal or external examinations. The girls quickly rose to the top of the ranks of the SAC/DSG string orchestra and the SAC/DSG quartet. Ensemble experience is extremely educational for young musicians. Not only do they enjoy it socially, but the benefits of great listening, teamwork and patience are amazing to witness.

Major preparation for Major Duo

Getting back to the success story, I’d like to paint a quick picture of what happened last week. It is July 2020, lockdown level three. Ngcola is in the matric boarding house ‘bubble’, and Ngcebetsha is online schooling from home. Both girls have just submitted their Trinity3 Grade VIII (final) violin practical examination performance videos. I receive a call from the National Arts Festival4 offering an opportunity for the girls to record a show for the extended virtual festival, pretty much immediately! Having barely drawn breath after weeks of intensive exam repertory practice, Ngcola and Ngcebetsha jumped at this exciting opportunity and quickly put together a show of their favourite kwela5 tunes, arranged themselves, by ear, for violin and viola. Although lockdown and violin commitments have kept them from any recent duo activities, their group, Major Duo, has existed since 2018, established for a previous event.

The courage of these two fabulous young musicians to represent both Makhanda and DSG at such short notice is quite phenomenal. Against all odds, with only a couple of days to prepare and rehearse, Major Duo took to the Guy Butler Theatre stage, having taken complete ownership of their musical offering in a concise production, From Makhanda to Kofifi. Not only a chance to put themselves out there for potential online fame, the experience provided a huge learning curve about the workings of show business. DSG is extremely proud of Ngcebetsha and Ngcola!

Talent and much effort, schooling, literacy, nurture, support, investment, hard work, participation, activity, motivation, peer interaction, development, positive education, opportunities, business savvy, more hard work, timing, et al… equals potential future success in the performing arts!


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Category: Spring 2020

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