Joshua Wheatley, a 19-year-old musician from Southfield, has been chosen to perform in Artscape’s 2020 Youth Jazz Festival, next month.
Dozens of talented young musicians from across the Western Cape responded to the call to submit online audition videos during lockdown for this year’s festival, which will be a virtual recorded performance.
Launched in 2003, the festival is seen as an incubator for young jazz talent in the province.
“The focus of the programme,” says Artscape CEO Marlene le Roux, “has remained dedicated to providing skills development within the jazz genre. This enables young jazz musicians to take the experience forward into their careers and educate others in the process.”
Fourteen of the young musicians who auditioned were selected to perform in the recorded concert – Joshua will play the piano.
Music seems to run in Joshua’s veins, going as far back as his great-grandfather.
“The music thing is mostly on my dad’s side,” he says. “My great-grandfather, I wish I could have met him, was, in my family’s words, the best musician. Music, a lot of it is playing, but most of it is hearing and listening. They said he had the best ears, and he could listen to something once, internalise it, then play it. I’d say he’s the reason behind this music madness.”
Two of Joshua’s aunts, Genevieve Hendrickse and Lynn Hannibal, are also music teachers at Bergvliet High School, and some of his uncles play instruments, including the saxophone and guitar.
“My dad’s sisters are professional musicians: they do music as a job. I’d say they are the reason I do music. They were my music teachers while I was at Bergvliet High. They both play and teach piano and one plays flute and the other viola.
“They inspire me, just watching them and being around them, seeing them practise in their homes, it inspires me.”
Joshua says his father also used to play piano and organ at church.
Joshua started taking music lessons from the age of 6.
“My older cousin went for drum-kit lessons, and I just thought that was the coolest thing ever. I don’t remember this, but my parents say I would take wooden spoons and things like that and play. I started taking drum-kit lessons in Grade R, and I have been playing drums since.”
He started taking piano lessons at St Augustine’s Primary School in Grade 4.
“I think the first song I played was Mary Had a Little Lamb. It was the easiest song to play.”
Joshua fell in love with the piano instantly and says it has become his biggest passion.
He also draws inspiration from his peers to become a better musician.
“You know how they say there’s always someone better than you. Whenever I watch my jazz or piano friends perform or post something on social media, I’m always humbled.”
Joshua says one of his greatest achievements was being chosen to be part of the band in the Standard Bank National Youth Jazz Festival in Makhanda (formerly Grahamstown), last year.
He is now studying music at UCT.
“I’m loving my first year, I have a really great teacher. The lockdown has felt like more work, especially in the beginning. I just felt like I was loaded with work, and it was very different to the beginning of the year, but I’ve adjusted. The ‘prac’ lessons aren’t the same; I’d rather have my teacher show me in person instead of Skype but this is the new norm.”
Joshua, along with the 13 other young musicians selected by Artscape, will also participate in song-writing sessions and be mentored by the festival’s musical director, Amanda Tiffin.
“Everyone who auditioned stood out in terms of their playing ability, their energy and style,” says Amanda. “The level of playing and performance was outstanding, so it was very difficult to choose only a few.”
Due to the quality of auditions this year, Artscape opened jazz master classes last week to all who auditioned.
The master classes were given by industry professionals and there were workshops on the business of music.
Joshua says he hopes to become a teacher one day, while playing music on the side.
“I don’t worry about the future,” he says, “because If you love the music, it loves you back.”