For the first time in its history, the Standard Bank National Youth Jazz Band (SBNYJB) is under the tutelage of a female conductor, Amanda Tiffin. This year has also seen the rise of Moses Sebula, an 18-year-old saxophonist who has beaten the odds to secure a place in the annually-constituted youth jazz band.
 
Moses first attended the Standard Bank National Youth Jazz Festival (SBNYJF) in 2013. “A tenor sax that was almost as big as he was…I was blown away by his sound and incredible ears, but he couldn’t read a note and spoke little English, so he had no chance of getting into a reading band,” recalls Alan Webster, festival director. The next year, Moses was back in Grahamstown with slightly improved music reading skills. In 2014, he was selected for the National Schools’ Ensemble, which is created specifically for students that are talented but have limited formal music education. “Last year (2017) I was gobsmacked to see him selected for the National Schools’ Big Band (NSBB)—a reading gig. On congratulating him, he beamed at me and said, ‘I can read now!’”

Word of Moses’s exceptional talent—a kid trained at the Moses Molelekwa Arts Center near his home in Tembisa—had come to the attention of music teacher Ceri Moelwyn-Hughes from St Mary’s School in Waverley. She set about teaching him to read sheet music along with securing him his first tenor sax ahead of his return to SBNYJF in 2018. And it was a triumphant return as the shy 18-year-old let his sax do the talking, acing the auditions to secure his place in the 2018 Standard Bank National Youth Jazz Band in his first audition for the senior youth band.   
 
Over the years, the SBNYJB has included South Africa jazz stars such as SAMA-winning bassist Benjamin Jephta, pianist Thandi Ntuli, drummer Ayanda Sikade, and trombonist and vocalist Siya Makuzeni.
 
Amanda Tiffin, the band’s leader, is a respected performer with three jazz records to her credit. She is also head of music at the University of Cape Town, where she has presided over the education of some of South Africa’s most brilliant vocalists who took her reputably rigorous classes.
 
Amanda will guide the Standard Bank National Youth Jazz Band as it takes to the big stage at the Standard Bank Joy of Jazz on the Diphala Stage on Friday 28 September 2018. They will also give a free performance at the Night Market at the Nelson Mandela Square on Saturday 29 September 2018.

 


The band consists of UCT students Brathew van Schalkwyk on piano, Sean Sanby on bass, Damian Kamineth on drums, Ryan Truter on guitar, Daniel van der Walt on vocals, Ofentse Moshwetsi on alto sax, Moses Sebula on tenor sax, and Siyakhula student Thabo Sikhakhane on trumpet. The band will present a repertoire that includes their original compositions and takes of well-known standards.