South African Field Band Foundation: 2002 in review

It has been a busy year for the field bands in South Africa.

In May, they were invited to send a 25-piece band to Norway to play for President Thabo Mbeki on his visit there. They decided to take the best of all the field bands in South Africa and make up a “National Field Band.”

The group got together in Johannesburg where they worked for a few days with Bryan Thusi, a great South African jazz trumpeter and board member of the Field Band Foundation. He also accompanied the group to Norway.

The trip itself was wonderful and the children got to play in the snow — something they had never seen before, said Retha Cilliers, national director of the foundation. They also played for the Norwegian Prime Minister and Mbeki and did concerts at many schools.

Cilliers said the highlight was taking part in the Norwegian national day May 17. It is usually celebrated by youth bands marching through the streets with flags and costumes, and in Oslo the group was number 53 of 83 bands.

“The Norwegians really enjoyed the band,” Cilliers said. “I think our energetic dancing and playing was a bit of a novelty, as the 9:00 news that night announced ‘South Africa takes over the streets of Oslo.’ It was great.”

When the group returned to South Africa, some of the same members were able to take a quick trip back home before rushing off to the United States for their three-month stints with Pioneer, Madison Scouts and Capital Sound.

“They all had the most wonderful time, and what a learning experience for them!” Cilliers said. “This exchange has really helped to raise the standards back here.”

One of the exchange students was Monwabisi Bangiwe from Kimberley…