KZNPO de­but for gifted young pi­anist

Post - - Entertainment - JA­NINE MOODLEY

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.

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