It has become tradition at the Cape Town International Jazz Festival for a high school band to open up proceedings. The youngsters are the first to perform on the outdoor Mannenbergs Stage, setting the tone for two days of some of the greatest jazz you'll ever hear.
This year it is the turn of the South Peninsula High School to test their mettle. The high school in Diep River opened in 1950 and has a history of engaging their students with various activities outside of the classroom… Last year they won the Cape Argus High Schools Quiz for an unprecedented sixth time.
The school’s legacy of supporting a jazz band goes back to 2002 and this is just one of an active roster of bands at the school.
The current line-up for the jazz band consists of band members who have been promoted from junior band to senior band under the leadership of Lenrick Boesak, band musical director.
This year’s band who will play at the CTIJF are: Matthew Mentor alternating between guitar and trumpet; Sheldon Nefdt on trumpet; Xavier Rhode on bass; Daniel Williams on piano; Keenan Majiet on drums; Kirsten Klink on guitar; and Asive Rasman and Caleb Meyer sharing vocal duty.
The band’s musical history goes back to George Werner, who introduced them to jazz standards such as Killer Joe, Pais Tropical and Chameleon. Once Boesak joined the South Peninsula High School staff and stepped up as band musical director he introduced new standards such as Caravan, Night in Tunisia, Nardis and Cape Samba.
Boesak also got the band branching into a new direction when he taught them his own composition, African Dream.
Over the years the jazz band has worked with artists such as Candice Thornton and Chad Hendrickse, amongst others.
The multi-talented youngsters and their predecessors have over the years performed at the Jolly Carp Organic Market in Retreat, the Baxter Theatre, Iziko Museum and the Grahamstown Jazz Festival, which forms an integral part of the National Arts Festival.
Some of the band members have over the years auditioned for and been selected to play in the National Schools Big Band and this year’s current line-up all want to audition as well.
Thus far the band have performed at their school and at community festivals in and around Cape Town, such as the Princess Vlei campaign (a socially conscious, nature preservation campaign platform). They perform at least once a term at school, sharing the stage with the school’s other bands.
Boesak is always admonishing band members that music is not about playing loudly but about listening to each other. Addressing the band members, Boesak had this to say: “You guys have the potential and I know you are more than capable of achieving great musical success through discipline and hard work.
"You carry a rich history in performing, constantly giving our best on a wide range of platforms,” said Boesak.
You can catch the South Peninsula High School Jazz Band opening the CTIJF on Friday 29 March.