The Saint Andrew’s Music Academy travelled to Johannesburg and Pretoria on the weekend of 24-25 May to play some gigs, learn a lot, and participate in the Saint Mary’s Waverley Battle of the Bands. It started slowly, but ended with a bang, which had everyone on a high.

So, that slow start… “On Friday, we missed our first gig [at Beaulieu College], which was a bit of an anti-climax,” said Saint Music Academy teacher Elize Swart after an accident held up the party of 20, made up of 17 musicians, teachers Elize and Gerrie van Heerden, and the driver, Zuki.

With the gig missed, the Music Academy boarded the bus once more and headed to Pretoria to meet with Christiaan Baartman, a former contestant on The Voice. “He writes his own songs,” said Elize. “He spoke to us about being a musician, about studio work, and about how to get your music out there.

“YOU HAVE TO WORK REALLY HARD”

“He’s a very nice guy, very real and transparent. He took the kids through production and how to do things properly. He also said it is not a glam lifestyle. You have to work really hard. He’s put a lot of songs out there, and he spoke about what programmes to use when you’re doing your own recording.”

She explained how the dynamic has changed, with musicians now able to do their recordings at home before taking it to professionals to complete the product. Doing it this way enables them to direct the professionals in the sound that they want to put out.

The Saints Music Academy’s band, The Bronx, with Jana van Rooyen on lead vocals, delivered a very well received performance at the Battle of the Bands

After the visit with Christiaan, the group made a short drive to Cornwall Hill College, where some of the boys donned their hockey kit for Saint Andrew’s against Cornwall Hill. “It was nice that we could join in a bit,” Elize remarked.

Afterwards, it was on to the Railways Café, where the group was able to take in some live music, which included a keyboards and bass combo and a lady who performed world music. “It was very weird, but very different and dynamic. It was good for the kids to see what other people are doing, and also to see their performances,” Elize said.

SATURDAY MORNING GIG

On Saturday morning, the Music Academy put on a one-and-a-half hour gig at the Cows Market in Pretoria. “They were so nice to the kids,” she said of the organisers. “It was a bit tricky not having everyone there, but it was still a lot of fun. They did very well and the people were very kind.”

The Saturday morning gig at the Cows Market in Pretoria was an opportunity to showcase the talent of the Saints Music Academy before the Battle of the Bands that evening.

Then, it was off to Saint Mary’s for a sound check before the Battle of the Bands. “That was a highlight. It was really good quality,” Elize said, excitement flooding into her voice.

“They ran a competition for lighting at the same time. There were crews that were allocated for each band. Our lighting crew came third. They knew what they were doing.”

“OUR KIDS DID REALLY WELL”

Assesssing her charges’ performance, Elize said: “When we performed, we were about third. But the quality of our music was right up there with all the others. Our kids really did well. They performed well, they played well and then they won a recording [of the original song].” Interestingly, the recording will be acoustic one.

The song, written and sung by Jana van Rooyen, was just right for her, Elize added: “With original songs, they write it according to their voices. It was very much within Jana’s range. It suited her voice and style.”

After the Battle of the Bands, the Saints Music Academy crew were buzzing. “Everyone was so excited. I am so impressed with the performance level of the kids.

“That stage is intimidating. I would be intimidated because it is an awesome auditorium. It’s made for this. It was insane. The kids said it was an experience of a lifetime to play on that stage.”

Awaiting feedback from the judges at the Battle of the Bands was a nerve-wracking but rewarding experience.

LOOKING AHEAD

Looking ahead and considering other competition opportunities, Elize reckoned: “For sure, we’ll do more of these. A lot of what I picked up is a lot of [Johannesburg] schools teach music like we do. They also have their light side and their classical side. There is space for kids to do this, which is encouraging, because there is nobody else in Bloemfontein that does that.”

The Saints Music Academy is not only home to the boys of Saint Andrew’s, there are about 60 learners from outside of the school, including girls from Saint Michael’s, Eunice, and Oranje, and boys from, among others, Grey College and Willem Postma.

As learners complete their schooling, so the Music Academy undergoes changes too, ever evolving. Next year, Elize said, the change will be clear.

SAINTS MUSIC ACADEMY DYNAMIC

“Our dynamic is going to change again. It’s exciting and it’s exciting to get the kids excited and you realise more and more that they have to perform. They’re so comfortable on stage, so you actually have to create that platform.

“We’re definitely going to do Battle of the Bands again, but it’s good for the younger kids that are coming up as well to see them, because these guys are now more comfortable. They have that experience. Talent is always emerging.”

Discussing what the Saints Music Academy aims to offer and suggesting something that could be a future project, she concluded: “We try to provide what people want. We can get in whatever [instruments] we want. I think a drumline would be brilliant.”