Welgelegen teen runner up in national music competition

From left are Shiyu Qi in third place, Xizhi Aiden Luo who was the winner, and Juntian David Yang in second place.

Juntian David Yang, 13, from Welgelegen, was runner-up in the 34th annual Hubert van der Spuy National Music Competition.

The competition is hosted by the Tygerberg Branch of the South African Society of Music Teachers (SASMT) and saw 46 young musicians going through numerous rounds of elimination.

David’s total prize money of R16 200 is made up of R10 000 for the second place as well as prizes for best performance of a Baroque work in the 1st round; best performance of a Classical work in the 2nd round, as well as the allocated money for all participants in the third and final rounds.

David is a student of Dr Mario Nell, who won R2 000 as teacher of the runner-up. He loves the piano as an instrument but also enjoys a good game of badminton.

Top honours in this year’s Hubert van der Spuy National Music Competition went to the 12-year-old pianist Xizhi Aiden Luo from Durban, who walked away with a total of R20 200 in prize money, as well as a gold medal and an invitation to perform as soloist at the Hugo Lambrechts Concerto Festival in 2024.

Aiden says music is part of who he is, and he totally enjoys it. He loves reading whenever he has time, and he also writes his own stories. In addition to the Johanna van der Spuy first prize of R15 000, he also won the first prize in the Piano Category, as well as the allocated money for all participants in the third and final rounds. His teacher Philippa Greenwood also won the prize of R2500 for the teacher of the overall winner.

The 8-year-old violinist Shi Yu Qi from Johannesburg won the third prize of R7 500. She took home a whopping total of R19 700, with her teacher, Engela Scheepers, winning R1 500. Apart from the 3rd prize medal and R7 500 cash prize, she also received the 3rd and final round participation fees, the prize for the best performance of a Baroque work in the 1st round for participants 10 years and younger, the string category prize, the prize for the best candidate of 10 and younger, as well as the prize as audience favourite.

In spite of her tender age of only 8, Shi sees herself as a sunflower growing towards the sun, and would like to give people hope and light. She always works hard. She started playing the violin at the age of 4 and is passionate about her playing.

The competition is sponsored by Professor Hubert van der Spuy personally; the Hugo Lambrechts Music Centre; Allmusic and Virtuozo. All participants in the third round received a cash prize of R1 000 with an additional R1 200 for the top eight.

The other qualifiers in the final round, each with prizes to the value of R2 200 for participation in the third and final rounds, were 12-year-old pianist Annabelle Chen from Johannesburg; 10-year-old Juiliette Nel, on the cello from Walvis Bay in Namibia; 11-year-old Serena Nip on the piano from Durban.

In addition to the third and final round prizes of R2200, Walvis Bay pianist Samuel Nel, 13, also won the Tygerberg prize for the candidate whose teacher is a member of this branch of the SASMT. Samuel’s teacher Shane Goodall won the Tygerberg prize for a member of this branch whose candidate did the best.

The 10-year-old Henning Bouwer from Johannesburg plays the flute and won the Woodwind Category, while Nayima Ndlovu who plays the trumpet, won the category prize for other instruments.

Three participants – Lara Meiring, Nina Cilliers and Annie Chang received special prizes for participating in the competition for 7, 6 and 4 years respectively.

The competition is the brainchild of Professor Hubert van der Spuy and was launched as an instrumental competition for primary school pupils in 1989. At the time, Professor Van der Spuy was the head of the Music Department at the University of the Western Cape.

One of his music students was Marlene le Roux, CEO of the Artscape Theatre Centre, a disability and women’s rights activist, and also patron to the competition.

In her message, she hailed Professor Van der Spuy for the inspiring role he played in her own life as well as those of hundreds of others – either as students under his watch, or as participants in the competition.

“There is a well-known adage that states: ‘Music is the soundtrack of our lives.’ I agree with this wholeheartedly. When I see words such as ‘young’, ‘music’ and ‘talent’ combined in a sentence, it brings joy to my heart and immediately makes me want to be a part of such a phenomenal project. This national competition is one of a kind in South Africa. It is remarkable and unique in that it offers support and a platform to young musicians, affording them an opportunity to not only make a living utilising their passion for music in a very competitive industry, but also to become invaluable mentors to other musicians.

“I would also like to express my heartfelt thanks and appreciation to all the parents.”

The competition was initially sponsored by Sanlam and until 2010 known as the Sanlam National Music Competition. SAMRO came on board in 2011 and contributed to the success of the competition until 2019.

The optimal development of young musicians has always been a priority for Professor Van der Spuy and he is the generous donor of the competition’s first prize, which bears the name of his late mother, Johanna van der Spuy.

Professor Van der Spuy was recognised for his work in 2011 and 2012 when he was awarded the Huberte Rupert Prize (SA Academy for Arts and Science) and an Honorary Licentiate in Music (Unisa). In March this year he was honoured with the Lifetime Achievement Award at the 13th kykNET Fiëstas. In October 2023 an Honorary Doctorate will be bestowed on him by the North-West University. He is still active as an adjudicator and acts as external examiner for prominent universities.

The 34th annual competition was adjudicated by three highly acclaimed musicians and teachers, Samantha Durrant, Danré Strydom and Benjamin van Eeden.

The gala event was enjoyed by the audience at the auditorium of the Hugo Lambrechts Music Centre in Parow and also broadcast via the competition’s YouTube channel.

At back, from left, are Samantha Durrant, Jayden Li, Dr Marlene le Roux, Professor Hubert van der Spuy, Samuel Nel, Annebelle Chen, Hilda Boonzaaier and Benjamin van Eeden. In front are Shi Yu Qi, Serena Nip, Juliette Nel, Xizhi Aiden Luo, Juntian David Yang and Danre Strydom.