EPITOME OF STYLE: The fabulous Sophia Foster performs at last year’s International Jazz Festival. Foster is to perform on Sunday at the new Steenberg High School's CFlat Youth Jazz Festival.
Cape Town - March is heating up as a jazz month of note in the Mother City. In the lead-up to the Cape Town International Jazz Festival on March 23 and 24 at the Cape Town International Convention Centre, there is a new youth jazz festival on the scene.

The CFlat Youth Jazz Festival is taking place on Sunday at Steenberg High School from 3pm-7pm. This exciting youth festival is being hosted by Steenberg High School in partnership with Musiquelaine, Music Exchange and the Fostering Foundation.

The foundation was set up by legendary jazz singer Sophia Foster to share her skills with young artists. All the bells and whistles have been pulled out to make this event a stand out with professional sound. A 1000-seater stadium is being set up within the schoolgrounds.

Musiquelaine SA is an NGO promoting the development of music education at schools in under- resourced communities. And Music Exchange is an annual music conference held in Cape Town.

Foster and RJ Benjamin will perform at the youth festival, featuring bands from Steenberg High - a jazz band, jazz ensemble and wind band (the school has a strong music department), Stellenbosch University's Big Band, the Fostering Foundation Artists and a band from South Peninsula High School.

This week, Benjamin has been mentoring some of the musicians taking part in the festival.

The youth jazz festival is not part of the Cape Town International Jazz Festival, but is being seen by many as a precursor - and as a platform to present a taste of what is happening on the youth jazz scene.

This is according to one of the organisers, Martin Meyers, who heads up the annual Music Exchange Conference that is now in its eighth year and manages Foster, Benjamin and other artists like Sipho Hotstix Mabuse.

Foster is in a sense the face of the youth festival. Her enthusiasm, positivity and drive is insatiable and has spearheaded this event.

The charismatic Foster started her career during the apartheid 1960s, as a backing singer for the Golden City Dixies, a troupethat toured the country and the neighbouring states, and eventually toured abroad.

Jonathan Butler and Zayn Adams are two of the famous names who sang with the Dixies. Foster got into the Dixies through a recommendation from her neighbour in Wynberg, where Foster grew up, and who sewed the costumes for the troupe.

Breaking away from the male-dominated Dixies, she worked as a solo artist and collaborated with other artists. From early on, Foster not only captivated audiences with her rich, sultry voice, but she oozed style. And continues to do so, on and offstage.

Bump into Foster at a theatre event and she radiates Afro-glam: beautifully attired, warm, engaging and utterly approachable.

The struggles and challenges she faced - and transcended - inspired her to start the Fostering Foundation to mentor and fast-track young talent.

Since establishing the foundation in 2017, Foster has made a tremendous impact on youth jazz in the city. The youth jazz festival at Steenberg will take her work to another level. Foster, who performed at last year's Cape Town International Jazz Festival, is not in the line-up this year as her foundation work is taking up her time.

She is on a mission to equip the youth with the skills to forge their way in the music biz. This is a “luxury” her generation did not have, she muses.

Myers, who has been a key operations manager in getting the youth festival up and running, is delighted at the response and enthusiasm for igniting the jazz scene. He hopes it will whet people’s appetites for the upcoming Cape Town International Jazz Festival.

Some of the artists he represents will perform at the festival. Sipho Mabuse will be there with The Liberation Project, featuring artists who have joined forces to celebrate their liberation struggles.

The show will be dedicated to the late Ray Phiri.