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Wednesday, December 29, 2010


(Pic 2: Ben Schoeman)

Standard Bank Young Artist Winner For Music 2011

After being the first South African to win the first grand prize in the 11th UNISA Vodacom International Piano Competition in Pretoria in 2008, Ben Schoeman (27) now also adds the Standard Bank Young Artist Award for Music 2011 to his long list of professional accolades.

“The Standard Bank Young Artist Award is a wonderful recognition, and I feel really honoured to be part of the list of creative artists that have won this Award over the past three decades,” said Schoeman. “This award gives a great amount of international exposure, but it also builds stronger ties with my home country South Africa. It also inspires me as an artist to achieve higher standards,” he added.

“As a young pianist who has already begun to make his mark, Ben Schoeman is someone to watch,” said Richard Cock, National Arts Festival committee member for Music. “He will certainly make his presence felt at the Festival, and it is a long time since we have had a pianist as the Music winner.”

After obtaining a Masters in Performing Arts (cum laude) from the University of Pretoria, Schoeman completed a Master Diploma from the Accademia Pianistica ‘Incontri col Maestro’ in Imola, Italy. He is currently undertaking a Doctor of Musical Arts degree at City University of London and the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. He has studied with well-known musicians, including Joseph Stanford, Michel Dalberto, Louis Lortie, Boris Petrushansky and Ronan O’Hora.

“I grew up in a very musical family. My parents often took me to concerts and I started with violin lessons at the age of four. Music has therefore played a very important role during my childhood. My mother is an organist and I always had the music of JS Bach in my ears,” said Schoeman. “It was, however, the sound of the piano that had captured my imagination most vividly, and I started listening to many recordings of great artists such as Arthur Rubinstein, Sviatoslav Richter and Emil Gilels.”

Schoeman has performed across Europe, Canada and the United Kingdom. He has played in prestigious concert halls, such as the Wigmore Hall and Queen Elizabeth Hall in London, the Grande Auditorio of the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation in Lisbon, the Teatro del Giglio in Lucca, the Paleis Het Loo in the Netherlands, Schloss Moritzburg in Dresden and the Konzerthaus in Berlin. He also gave critically-acclaimed recitals at various international festivals, among others the Chester Festival and King’s Lynn Festival (UK), the Festival da Bach a Bartók and the Festival Pianistico “Mario Ghislandi” (Italy), the Ottawa Chamber Music Festival (Canada) and the Crans-Montana Semaines Musicales (Switzerland).

“My greatest heroes are those musicians who show real integrity and creativity in their music-making,” said Schoeman. “A musician that inspires and moves me tremendously is the pianist András Schiff. When he plays, I forget about anything that is material and earthly. I hear only the beautiful and transcendental qualities of the music itself. I would love to perform with more South African singers in the future.”

He regularly performs concertos with the leading South African symphony orchestras, including the Johannesburg, KwaZulu-Natal and Cape Philharmonic Orchestras. He also regularly gives solo and chamber music recitals throughout South Africa. His recent nationwide tour of 23 concerts received rave reviews.

“Humanity and spirituality are the things that inspire me the most. Music is something that brings me great joy, but I also want to share this with a large public. I feel that we can never work hard enough to emphasise the important role of music and art in basic education. I feel really inspired when I see someone being moved by a great work of art,” said Schoeman.

In 2008 he received the prestigious Laureate Award from the University of Pretoria Alumni Association for his achievements as well as his contribution to music in South Africa. In 2009 he also won the coveted gold medal and first prize in the Royal Over-Seas League Music Competition in London. Salon Music and UNISA recently launched his DVD-recording of concertos by Mozart and Tchaikovsky.

“I hope that I can create a greater awareness of classical music in South Africa and to be a cultural ambassador for my country,” said Schoeman about his hopes for the year ahead. “I also see this as an important year to expand my repertoire, and I hope that I shall have the opportunity to introduce the music of South African composers to more audiences in South Africa and abroad. I would like to give my heartfelt thanks to Standard Bank for their loyal and continued support of the arts, and in particular their great investment towards the Standard Bank Young Artist Award.”