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RESPONSE TO PHILIPP MAIER (article first published : 2003-01-14)

Mr Philipp Maier’s letter to the editor (2002-12-29) claiming that a number of “entities” have attempted to obstruct his “work directed towards music education and the active building of a music culture” begs a reply. It is not entirely clear which entities Mr Maier is referring to, as the subject of his diatribe appears to be Mr Bongani Tembe. However, he does make reference to the Durban Music School and me. It is response to this that I write now.

Mr Maier fails to give any details, so I can only assume that he is referring to a particular incident which occurred earlier in 2002. In the interests of all concerned, the circumstances of this incident in which I refused Mr Maier the loan of several of the KwaZulu Natal Youth Wind Band’s principal players for one of his Gateway performances, need to be clarified.

In the first instance, the Durban Music School, cited in Mr Maier’s letter as an obstructive entity, was in no way involved as he approached me in my capacity as conductor of the KZNYWB – an ensemble which operates completely separately from the Durban Music School, despite many of its members being taught by teachers of the music school.

Secondly, as conductor I had no choice but to deny Mr. Maier’s request as the KZNYWB was engaged for a concert that served as repayment to a sponsor for a very generous donation toward our Vienna Competition Tour of July 2001. Mr Maier’s response was to offer band members a considerable fee which, to their credit, they turned down. Like many other local orchestral and musical bodies, both professional and educational, the wind band cannot afford to offend any sponsors and acquiring further sponsorship is only possible if we are able to deliver performances of a consistently high standard. To this end members attend weekly Saturday morning rehearsals and it is through this practice that ensemble skills are refined. Members are also expected to be available for all performances.

Lastly, I would like to point out that the Durban City Orchestra has traditionally been an amateur orchestra, offering instrumentalists of all ages an opportunity to enjoy and employ the skills that they have acquired in an ensemble. It has the potential to be both a valuable training ground for instrumentalists not catered for in any other groups and an excellent vehicle for propagating a culture of music. This orchestra seems to be conflated in Mr Maier’s letter with the Gateway Philharmonic Orchestra, which I understand to be a more ad hoc ensemble which imports many players for each performance from other ensembles local or otherwise.

Keeping music a flourishing concern in our present economy is a full time and demanding enterprise for many of us and while I can both appreciate and sympathise with Mr Maier’s evident frustration, little can be achieved by personal attacks, particularly against Mr Tembe. The high profile of the KwaZulu Natal Philharmonic Orchestra alone and its status as the only permanently staffed professional orchestra in South Africa, bear testimony to Mr Tembe’s proficiency as orchestral director. We all strive to the best of our ability to educate and entertain in the province and the many successes of both the KwaZulu Natal Youth Wind Band and the KwaZulu Natal Philharmonic Orchestra are only possible because of the co-operation of many individuals and entities, such as the various local and national arts associations, the university’s music department and a wide variety of sponsors and interested participants.

Kind regards, Werner Dannewitz

Conductor: KwaZulu Natal Youth Wind Band, Director: Durban Music School




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