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Saturday, February 22, 2014


(Retha Cilliers)

Minister of Arts & Culture, Paul Mashatile, honours the death of Retha Cilliers, the CEO of the Field Band Foundation, acknowledging her as a visionary, activist and friend of the arts and young people.
“We are devastated by her sudden passing as it has left a huge void in the arts fraternity. Whilst we were aware of the battles she fought against illness, Ms Cilliers seemed very fine during the 2013 FBF National Championships, as did many others, and we were since convinced that she had vanquished the illness that she fought against for so long.
Her energy and drive inspired us, her enthusiasm for life and the arts humbled us and her passion motivated us to support her cause. She will be greatly mourned and sorely missed by all who knew and interacted with her.”
Looking back over Retha’s life, unsurprisingly, it is as interesting and varied as the great lady. She had a long career in music and contributed to its development as a performer and a teacher. She played for the PACT Orchestra in the 1970s and furthered her studies overseas in music orchestras in the Netherlands and Spain. Retha returned to South Africa to continue with her passion for music and performed in the KwaZulu-Natal Philharmonic Orchestra (KZNPO) as a Principal Bassoonist.
She had passion for teaching music and made it accessible to all young people of South Africa, especially girls. She used music as a tool to promote development and equal opportunities. In 1997, she took a different kind of a leading role as the CEO Field Band Foundation (FBF), where she made huge strides in making orchestral music accessible to young people from poor communities. During her tenure, she transformed the organisation into a structure with roots deep in communities across the country, providing not only music education but also life skills and self-confidence to young people involved in the arts. Throughout her stewardship of the FBF, Ms Cilliers forged strong partnerships locally and internationally with Field Bands in both United States of America and Norway.
“Retha Cilliers was a great South African, a soldier of the arts and a shaper of our future through the work and leadership role she held at the FBF. She left a legacy of selflessness and of passion for music development. We extend our heartfelt condolences to her family and friends, the Chairman, the Board and staff of the Field Band Foundation and to all the children who have benefitted from her wisdom, friendship and generosity. May she rest in peace. We shall ensure that her legacy lives on”, Mashatile concluded.
Bongani Tembe, Artistic Director and CEO of the KZN Philharmonic Orchestra
 It was very sad when Retha left the orchestra to take up her position with the Field Band Foundation but look what she achieved. She left an incredible legacy.”
Sophia Welz, Managing Director of the South African National Youth Orchestra Foundation and long-term friend:
“She was a bassoonist through and through. Tough, resilient and unrelenting, irresistibly charming, incredibly funny and kind. The hole she leaves behind is vast, but is filled with young (and older!) people the world over who owe their happiness to her.There we go. Retha "Darling" Cilliers. I think from the day I opened my eyes until the day she closed hers I've thought she's just better than anything in the world!
Xolani Qoma, facilitator at the Field Band Foundation Academy:
Xolani placed the following message on Facebook. It expresses the feelings of hundreds of youngsters who have benefited from Retha Cilliers’ advice and encouragement:
"When a son looses a mother".... It hasn't hit me yet that you are gone, I don't want to think about it yet, Nope its not true at all!!! U have been there all these years, motivated me so much to become what I am today, corrected my mistakes with a smile and continued to lead me back to the road to righteous. A mother you have been, U not gone in my heart, will never be EVER... I know u slept proudly knowing there is a legacy u left me to carry and I will do so knowing it is on your shoulders I stand! RIP Ma