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SIZWE NGCOBO (article first published : 2002-11-25)

Thanks to funding from the National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund, Friends of Music are able to offer a Prelude Performer programme in which talented young musicians have a chance to share a platform with established – and often internationally renowned - performers.

This opportunity is invaluable to up and coming musicians as they learn self-discipline and the ability to conquer their nerves in front of highly critical music lovers in order to present their talents to the best possible advantage.

The next Friends of Music concert is the annual Rising Stars programme on December 3 and the Prelude Performer at this event will be the Ningizimu School steel drum group headed by Sizwe Ngcobo.

Sizwe Ngcobo is without doubt a very special young man. He is described by his teacher and mentor Robin Opperman as having “a number of special talents, and an insatiable drive to better himself, no matter what the odds stacked against him.”

Nineteen year old Sizwe hails from Lamontville where he lives with his extended family. He first became involved with the Steel Drum Foundation when he joined Bryan Clarke’s steel drum classes at his school, Ningizimu School for the Mentally Handicapped.

Prior to joining the SDF, Sizwe had already put his talent and drive to good use by becoming involved in a number of exciting projects through Ningizimu School. In 1 999, Sizwe worked with his teacher Robin Opperman, who became his coach for the International ThinkQuest Competition. He was teamed up with a Singaporean brother and sister and provided the artwork for their joint educational website called The Passing of the Century.

The site was a silver award winner in the ThinkQuest International Challenge in October 1999 and Sizwe and Robin travelled to Los Angeles to receive his price. Sizwe was the first special needs pupil to ever win ThinkQuest which was a huge honour for him and for his school. It was also the first time he had even been in an aeroplane or stayed in a hotel, both experiences he handled with his usual calm aplomb.

Says Robin, “Sizwe has faced the international press and numerous other challenges with a calmness, professionalism and bravery one is surprised to find in someone so young - and with special needs”.

Sizwe has now brought his special brand of charm to the Steel Drum Foundation. Thanks to the generous sponsorship of Shepstone and Wylie, Sizwe has been employed as a teacher for the SDF. He now works three days a week teaching steel drum classes to learners at Ningizimu School. His repertoire of songs and skills have grown considerably as he has gained experience and he has proved to be a competent, enthusiastic and dedicated teacher. Sizwe also spends time assisting Bryan each week and has become a popular figure at the many schools they visit together.

“Sizwe is indeed an inspiration to all who meet him and a kinder, gentler spirit would be hard to find. Sizwe’s courage and determination is an example to all of us, and we at the Steel Drum Foundation are exceptionally proud to be associated with him,” says Bryan Clarke, co-founder of the SDF.

The concert will take place at the Durban Jewish Club on December 3 at 19h45. Booking is at Computicket, a cash bar is available and there is safe parking.




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