KZNPO debut for gifted young pianist
THE sky is the limit for 21-year-old romantic repertoire pianist Shaheel Kooverjee, who will make his debut with the KZN Philharmonic Orchestra (KZNPO) at the National Youth Concerto Festival this month.
Kooverjee auditioned for the KZNPO Youth Music Festival earlier this year and was ecstatic when he was selected.
“This will be my first time playing with the KZN Philharmonic, so I am more than looking forward to this performance,” he beamed.
“I previously played the first movement of the second Rachmaninov Piano Concerto in C Minor, which is a brilliantly written and sounding work.
“This year, I will be playing the third movement. Hence, in some way, this concert will also be important to me as it will link back to my first orchestra performance in terms of the work I will be performing.”
Despite pursuing a BSc Honours Degree in Computer Science at the University of Cape Town, Kooverjee currently studies piano performance under the guidance of Professor Franklin Larey, head of piano studies at the South African College of Music (SACM).
Originally from Uitenhage in the Eastern Cape, Kooverjee comes from a family of five. He has two older sisters – an actuary and a doctor.
He started piano lessons in 2007 with the now late Elmarie Brand. In 2011, he continued lessons with a former student of hers, Timothy O’Reilly, and completed the Grade 6 and 7 piano examinations, as well as the Grade 5 and 6 theory of music examinations through Unisa with distinction.
In 2013, he was taught by Dr Erika Bothma (of the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University) and scored 91% in his Unisa Grade 8 piano examination. He was thereafter invited to compete in the 2013 Unisa National Music Scholarship Competition.
In the same year, he matriculated from Muir College Boys’ High School in Uitenhage with eight distinctions.
Besides receiving faculty scholarships from UCT and obtaining a position on the Dean’s Merit List for each of his past three years of undergraduate study, Kooverjee was also awarded the Zook Fields Scholarship for being the highest-scoring, first-year piano student of 2014 at the SACM.
In 2015, he performed with the Cape Philharmonic Orchestra (CPO) as a soloist in the annual Artscape National Youth Music Festival. He again performed with the CPO under the baton of Chad Hendricks, as part of the 2016 Len Van Zyl Conductor’s Competition and later at the UCT Concerto Festival of 2016 with conductor Alex Fokkens and the UCT Symphony Orchestra. Kooverjee said being a musician required exceptional dedication.
“Practising every day for hours on end, to refine technical or musical abilities, is the norm. Classical musicians definitely have a passion for what they do. Music is something they truly live and breathe.”
The young enthusiast said he drew inspiration from internationally famous classical pianists, who delved into more romantic repertoire, such as Ashkenazy, Lugansky, and Zimerman, but he hoped to one day share the stage with his teacher, Professor Larey.
On performing live on stage, Kooverjee said nervousness was a standard thing among all musicians.
“I think a bit of nerves is good and necessary for performances. Soon after starting the performance, I become less nervous and try to just enjoy the moment, losing myself in the music.”
Kooverjee will perform in the National Youth Concerto Festival, the fourth and final concert of the KZNPO’s Early Spring Season, at the Durban City Hall on September 14.
Classical pianist Shaheel Kooverjee will make his debut with the KZN Philharmonic Orchestra this month.