Jazz songbird has an ear for talent
JAZZ songbird Sophia Foster has long lived out her name – fostering and nurturing young people interested in starting a singing career.
So she finds the Sekunjalo Edujazz Concert a natural fit. Foster performed at this year’s Cape Town International Jazz Festival with Camillo Lombard’s Cape Town Showcase and agreed to take part in the concert this year.
She presents a group of eight of her students as The Foster Kids at the Artscape Theatre on Saturday at the 17th annual concert.
The Sekunjalo Edujazz Project is a music programme which runs during the school holidays across greater Cape Town. Every year the Sekunjalo Development Foundation hosts its annual concert at the Artscape Theatre, and all proceeds from the event funds bursaries at more than 75 disadvantaged schools in the Western Cape.
Foster points out that it’s all good and well for children to idolise music artists, but they have to learn there is a process to be followed to get you onto the professional stage. It doesn’t just happen overnight, even if a reality TV show like The Voice creates that impression.
While the Sekunjalo Edujazz Project is aimed at teaching teenagers about what it takes to become performing musicians, Foster focuses on singers.
Hiram Hertogh, Celest Florence, Caitlin Farmer, Zukieswa Minyi, Ashtvan Mintoor, Impho Ngexe, Mohamed George and Abigail Bagley range in age from 12 to 19 and they had to audition for Foster to get this chance to showcase their abilities.
“Here is such a lot of raw talent, God bless them, there are millions in Cape Town alone,” Foster said about finding and mentoring singers.
She invites children into her studio to teach them about what it takes to become a professional singer, including voice technique and choreography – something she has been doing since the late 1960s.
“I nurture these youngsters because it’s all about ‘are you able to sustain a career?’. You can phone me up for a gig tomorrow and say ‘Sophia, I am booking you’ and I will put my programme together and the client who has booked me will be 150% sure that Sophia is going to deliver a professional job. This is what I am educating my kids to be ready for. For me, they have to be ready to jump in and deliver a full package.
“Are you telling a story? Are you sincere? That’s what I’m all about,” explained Foster. “I always say there is nothing more unique or original than experience, and if you have someone who can pass that on to you… It is something I never had.
“During the apartheid years there was nothing available that could make you grow. But this is how the industry works – it is who you know,” said Foster.
This year, high school pupils taking part in the Sekunjalo Edujazz Big Band will perform under the direction of arranger/pianist Andrew Ford and, along with The Foster Kids, they have the opportunity to meet the professional musicians performing at the concert.
These include The Dynamic Voices (The Voice finalist Robin Pieters; Idols contestant Elwira Standili; Cape crooner Jarrad Ricketts; singer/songwriter Lana Crowster, winner of the inaugural 2016 ESP Young Legends competition); and legendary bass guitarist Sammy Webber.
The excited teens will get an opportunity to meet their idols and pick their brains just before the concert and then watch them in action from behind the stage.
“On stage, because you’re in the spotlight, every little thing counts, whether it is a hand or stepping forward on the right foot or turning your head in a certain way. It’s composure you have to not create, but feel.
“That’s what defines what kind of performer you are,” Foster pointed out.
Excited by the potential this concert represents to showcase her students, Foster is thinking bigger. Her aim is to keep on creating a stage for all children who pass through her studio doors to perform.
She is also hoping to set up a foundation that will expand the kind of teaching she can do.
Concert queen arranges for her students to meet their idols, pick their brains