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He’s taken to the stage with the King of Pop’s drummer, and met Stevie Wonder’s daughter. His schedule this year includes touring with four international artists, playing the New Orleans Jazz Festival again, and gigging in Russia and Las Vegas.
He is also about to become South Africa’s youngest university student.
Daniel Petersen is only 11 years old, but on Friday will be his first day of studying music at the University of the Western Cape Performing Arts Centre.
Despite being nearly half the age of the other students, Daniel is not nervous. “I’ve got this covered. I know I will keep up.
Music means everything to me, and if I want to become the number one drummer or musical director, I want to learn as much as I can know.”
The young talent may enjoy chatting to friends his own age, playing water polo and squash, but when it comes to music, he has focus beyond his years.
“Everyone, if they work as hard as me, can achieve anything. You have to put in the hours. If you don’t practise you can’t be the number one.”
Daniel practises bit by bit, spreading his sessions out over the day. His father, also named Daniel Petersen, said they were lucky to have understanding neighbours. The family lives in Tokai. “The neighbours love it. They tell him to play louder because they’re dancing to it next door.”
Daniel comes from a line of musicians, as his father played jazz drums professionally and his grandfather was a musical director.
If he could drum for any artist in the world, Michael Jackson would be first, but seeing that that’s an impossibility, he’d be happy with Bruno Mars, Justin Timberlake or Miley Cyrus.
He knows there are things he will miss out on by not staying at school, but thinks it’s worth the sacrifice. “At least I’m achieving my dreams. Music is the most important thing to me.”
His father said Daniel struggled with academic subjects, but made up for it with his extraordinary skill behind the drum set.
“He’d sit in class for 10 minutes, then start tapping drums on his seats,” Petersen said.
Missing school to tour with musicians and play overseas also set him back, so Petersen and his wife made what they call a “bold decision” to trade his desk for the drum kit.
The veteran musician thinks his son has what it takes to survive stardom. “He must just stay grounded in the character we’ve built with him. At home, no one is famous.”