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SHANNON MOWDAY (article first published : 2006-12-25)

Given Shannon Mowday's family background and her early inception into the world of music, it is no surprise that she has been selected as the winner of the 2007 Standard Bank Young Artist for Jazz. Mowday began her musical career by learning the clarinet under the guidance of her father, Bob Mowday. She later learnt the saxophone, flute and piano, and by the age of 12 was already playing professionally with the Cape Jazz Orchestra, Clive Sharrock Big Band, Mainstream, as well as in theatre productions and collaborations with her father and brother in Family Affair.

Aside from her father's initial teaching, she studied briefly with Dr Douglas Masek at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), did summer school classes with Jean Touissant at the Guildhall School of Music, London, and had lessons with Johan Horlen (lead alto for the Stockholm Jazz Orchestra). She studied two years of arrangement at the University of Cape Town (UCT), but otherwise is a predominantly self-taught musician.

Shannon Mowday's professional career to date has included performing on a variety of platforms and educating. As a bandleader and composer, she has been applauded by critics for her uncanny ability to combine jazz with local rhythms and create an eclectic music mix. She is currently leading her original band Galumphing, which has recently performed at the Cape Town Jazzathon, Standard Bank Jazz Festival and Jazz at the Nassau. She also led the jazz outfit Bitches Brew, a collaboration of South African and Scandinavian musicians.

Her extensive big band experience extends to playing lead alto with the UCT Big Band and performing with the Cape Jazz Orchestra, Mike Campbell Big Band, Standard Bank Big Band, Marimban Big Band, Awesome Big Band, Junction 021, Satin Dolls (Sweden) and the National Youth Jazz Orchestra (NYJO) in England. Mowday has graced many local festivals both as a soloist and band member, and internationally, she has performed in Egypt, England, Australia, Namibia and Zimbabwe. She toured Scandinavia with an all-female Swedish, Danish, Norwegian and South African collaboration called Jazmyne.

Being one of only a few female instrumentalists in South Africa, she has had the honour to collaborate and perform with many esteemed local and international jazz musicians, such as Winston Mankuku, Gloria Bosman, Judith Sephuma, Selalo Selota, Feya Faku, Marcus Wyatt, Robbie Janssen, James Morrison, John Fedchock, Morris Goldberg, and Bruce Cassidy, to name but a few. She has appeared on several compilation CDs including Cape Jazz Volume 1, P4 Heart and Soul of Cape Town, Al daai Jazz, Liriekeraai, and Sixty Something, and has recorded her own solo album, Tussen Jou en My.

Her musical exploits have also extended to our small screen where she plays in the live band for the Kyknet Productions, Liriekeraai and Joltyd, and she has also featured on the Fremantle/Taking a Chance production, Musiekmix. Theatre shows include the first South African jazz opera, Love and Green Onions and the world's largest outdoor production of Grease, as well as Guys and Dolls, Annie, Little Shop of Horrors, Cats, Chicago, Honk, and Crazy for You.

As an educator, Mowday has lectured in jazz saxophone at UCT since 2001 and has been involved in UCT's Jazz programme since its inception in 1990. Having trained and performed internationally, her talents were acknowledged by UCLA where she lectured on her playing style. She has been teaching at the Diocesan College and Preparatory Schools since 1998 where she also runs very successful jazz bands. She is involved in community projects that focus on jazz education, Turfjamp and Sekunjalo, and is presently working on instituting jazz programmes in schools.

While she feels most comfortable composing and playing jazz, she is at home with most styles of music including pop, rock, reggae, klezmer, fusion and classical. Mowday admits that her love for jazz is evident through her performances when she is open to improvisation.

The Young Artist Awards were started in 1981 by the National Arts Festival to recognise emerging, relatively young South African artists who have demonstrated exceptional ability in their chosen field. These prestigious awards are presented annually to deserving artists in three to four arts disciplines, affording them national exposure and acclaim. Winning artists, as part of their award, are given the opportunity to perform, direct or exhibit on the National Arts Festival's main programme. Standard Bank took over the sponsorship of the awards in 1984 and have presented Young Artist Awards in all the major arts disciplines over their 23-year sponsorship, as well as posthumous and special recognition awards.




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