South Africa: UCT Alumna Jets to Juilliard to Pursue Masters in Music

A unique opportunity awaits University of Cape Town (UCT) alumnus and musician Siyasanga Charles. The trombonist, whose love for jazz music is unparalleled, is on her way to the Big Apple. There she will begin her Masters in Music at the Juilliard School – one of the most prestigious performing arts schools in the world. And she has a message for her fellow African artists: “If I can do it, you can too. Apply, apply, apply.

Charles graduated from UCT with her honors in music, majoring in jazz trombone performance (with distinction) in 2013. In 2014 she started her master’s degree and had high hopes of similar success. But after the sudden death of his mother, Charles decided to take a break from the books and focus on his music. She maintained close ties with UCT and remained a member of the UCT Big Band, the UCT Symphony Orchestra and Wind Ensemble, and the university’s Alumni Big Band.

“After my mother passed away, I needed a little break to heal, and I decided to tour internationally with Matilda the Musical. It was such a fun and unforgettable experience,” she said. declared.

An unfinished application

Because a master’s degree in music had long been part of his life plan and studying at Juilliard had always been his dream, in September 2021 Charles decided to do his best and fall for his candidacy. But thanks to a few distractions, she said she couldn’t complete the process. While an unfinished application means very little to most institutions and often goes straight to the trashcan, it was a little different this time.

“The Jazz Studies Manager noticed in the backend that I hadn’t completed my application and contacted me.”

“The Jazz Studies Manager noticed in the backend that I had not completed my application and he contacted me. He encouraged me to take the pre-screening audition and graciously extended the submission deadline” , she said.

And just like that, Charles’ life changed in the blink of an eye. In January 2022, she learned that her online application had been accepted, and the school invited her to attend a live audition in New York. She said the audition process included two rounds of rigorous performances, which she completed with ease, and in February an email announcing her success landed in her inbox.

“To be honest, I always thought Juilliard was out of my league. As a kid, I used to hear about the school in Hollywood movies. One of the jazz greats, Miles Davis, studied there when he was young, so there was always an air of prestige around the school,” she said. “I didn’t think I had what it took to make it. But I decided to try my luck. I am delighted that everything went well, even if I did not expect it.”

be deliberate

To his fellow, extraordinarily talented African artists who have always dreamed of studying at Juilliard, Charles has some advice: “It is possible to pursue your dreams, so don’t let anything stand in your way.” She advised current and aspiring South African and South African musicians, dancers, actors and actresses to think about their dreams and go out there and make them a reality.

But make no mistake, Charles added – an international application process like this can be a daunting task. It involves a lot of paperwork and can take hours of research. But with the right attitude, anything is possible. She encouraged artists to achieve their dream work and start by building a network of industry friends all over the world, and connecting regularly through global exchange programs and through social media. That, she says, helped her get her foot in the door.

“Don’t doubt yourself, be resourceful and go for it. Make an effort to be part of the global village and connect with like-minded people. Above all, take your craft seriously, cultivate it and practice it. consistently. In the end, someone will notice your hard work and invest in you,” Charles said.

Journey to the North

As Charles prepares for his first day at Juilliard on September 1, she said she’s both excited and nervous about the journey ahead. A scholarship means that the cost of his university program has been covered. However, she has to pay the bill for her accommodation, living expenses, travel and student visa.