The story of the Delft Big Band

The Delft Big Band, under the musical directorship of Ian Smith, was launched in August 2008 as an initiative by the Department of Social Development, and NGO Cape Outdoor Adventure Service and Training ( COAST ). The objective of the project was to take youngsters off the gang-infested streets of Delft, one of the most violent suburbs on the Cape Flats, and give them a focus in life, in addition to enabling them to contribute to their household income. The band, consisting of 17 musicians and two vocalists, has developed into one of the most exciting big bands in South Africa, with many of the founder members now earning incomes as music teachers and professional musicians, as well as progressing to studies at the UCT College of Music.

Members of the band have undertaken two tours of Sweden, a tour of France, and performances at the Liverpool Brouhaha Festival, the Edinburgh Jazz and Blues Festival and the London Jazz Festival . The Delft Big Band performed at the 2015 Cape Town International Jazz Festival, one of the most prestigious festivals of its kind globally. Two of our trumpeters, Lorenzo Blignaut and Marcelle Adams, were selected to be part of the 8 piece Standard Bank National Youth Jazz Band, which performed at the Joy of Jazz Festival in Gauteng in September, 2015. Female vocalist, Adelia Douw, won the Grand West Open Mic Competition against stiff competition, as the most promising young jazz vocalist in the Western Cape in 2015. Our male vocalist, David October, came third, giving us two out of three of the most promising vocalists locally.

The band plays all genres of music, having a repertoire of more than 300 numbers. All members of the band can sight-read at the level of professional musicians. Very few of them have ever had an individual music lesson. Everything they have learnt has been taught in big band rehearsals.

The band is led by Ian Smith, one of South Africa’s top trumpeters, and leader of well known jazz group Virtual Jazz Reality (VJR). Ian has mentored the band since its inception, under very challenging conditions, including having to rehearse at night in a classroom in a dangerous part of Delft for many years. Happily, the band now has a permanent rehearsal facility in a secure location, thanks to the generosity of a supporter.

The Delft Big Band Music Academy was launched in October, 2015. It is hoped to enrol 200 pupils into the academy, which is managed and run by Delft Big Band members. The objective of the academy is empower talented young musicians from the Cape Flats, by improving their musical competence, and teaching them to read music. A feeder band has also been launched, again under the mentorship of current members. The aim of the feeder band is to improve their musical skills to a level of competence that will enable them to step into the shoes of current Delft Big Band members, as they move onwards and upwards in their musical careers.

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