Like the rest of our society, the world of classical music has been profoundly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, physical distancing, travel restrictions and quarantines have become part of our daily life.
This has particularly affected classical music performance as physical contact and exchanges are indispensable in making music. A group of South African professionals has organised an International Woodwind Competition (IWC) to be held this year to reinvigorate the South African classical music fraternity for advanced woodwind players (university and young professionals). The group includes the University of Pretoria (UP)’s Prof Johan Ferreira (from the Department of Statistics). It is chaired by Dr Danre Strydom from the Odeion School of Music at the University of the Free State in Bloemfontein.
How is Prof Ferreira involved? Prof Ferreira is a full-time associate professor in UP's Department of Statistics. He obtained an LRSM in oboe performance from the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music in the UK in 2016 and a PhD in Mathematical Statistics from the University of Pretoria (UP) in 2017. In addition to his role at UP, he currently performs as a freelance oboist around South Africa, regularly appearing as an ad-hoc member of the oboe sections of the KZN Philharmonic, Johannesburg Philharmonic, Eastern Cape Philharmonic and the Free State Symphony Orchestra. Prof Ferreira also performed at the Cape Town Concert Series and presented solo recitals at the Wakkerstroom Music Festival, the GauFestival, the Arts Association of Pretoria and Brooklyn Theatre TV, and participated in the concert series of the North West University in Potchefstroom.
The role of music in my life? ‘If strings give warmth to an orchestra, surely the wind instruments are its breath and beating heart. So it is a great privilege for me to be joining Dr Strydom and the other acclaimed board members and jury to establish this competition as a showcase of excellent South African and international wind artistry. The advancement and sustainability of wind playing and training in South Africa form a core focus in music education for the exclusive benefit of society. Music, after all, is meant to be heard and enjoyed,’ said Prof Ferreira.
For this competition, international entries are also welcomed to benchmark South African woodwind musicking to global standards. The board of the IWC envisions the sustained legacy of this project beyond 2022. Since there are currently no competitions for advanced woodwind players in our country, an overarching aim of this competition is to contribute to the vibrancy of the national/international piano, strings and vocal competitions that South Africa hosts. ‘Our country has a rich history of performance excellence. We believe this competition can once again provide a platform for our woodwind players to perform, grow and help launch their performance careers. The primary purpose of the competition is to promote the inheritance and preservation of excellent woodwind players and to encourage high standards, set goals and reward young performers for continuing the tradition,’ Prof Ferreira explained.
To date, the board has secured support (in kind) from the judges and significant national and international funding agencies and partners. In addition, it has teamed up with the Free State Symphony Orchestra (FSSO) to present a concert showcasing the excellent finalists at a formal symphony concert during which they will perform concertos - a valuable platform in itself for the wind family in a symphonic setting.