Within only two years of completing her degree, a B Tech: Vocal Art Performance at the Tshwane University of Technology (TUT), Cecilia Rangwanasha (24) this weekend became the first South African classical singer to win the prestigious 6th Unisa International Voice competition. She received prize money of R200 000.
“I am beyond happy,” Cecilia said from Cape Town, where she is currently enrolled for postgraduate Music Studies at the University of Cape Town. She is taught by well-known Professor Virginia Davids and, in between her studies, also receives additional training at and performs for Cape Town Opera.
Cecilia, who hails from Lebowakgomo in the Limpopo Province, says it is her late mother, Alinah, who encouraged her to study music. “As a child I was always singing,” she recalls.
She is full of praise for staff at TUT’s Vocal Art programme and says that they laid the foundation for her to excel in this industry. One of them is her former repertoire teacher, Laetitia Orlandi.
Orlandi says she is extremely proud of Cecilia and that she thoroughly deserves this victory. “Cecilia has always displayed all the necessary attributes for a successful singing career – determination, drive, focus, strong character and remarkable vocal talent. This is definitely only the beginning of a bright future.” Orlandi also commends Kiewiet Pali, who was responsible for Cecilia’s excellent vocal training during her studies at TUT.
Cecilia plans to use the prize money to travel abroad, especially Europe, for auditions and possibly to enroll for a Master’s degree.
Tshepo Tshabalala (25), a second-year Music student, also shone at the competition, under the watchful eye of Dr Roland Moses, Head of TUT’s Music Programme, who played alongside his student. Tshepo was named runner-up in the Jazz Category and bagged prize money of R130 000. He plans to use it to further his studies.
“I am glad and feel honoured that my gift was recognised internationally. The competition was tough, but the pressure made me discover a lot of hidden potential within myself,” he says.
Celebrated singer, Sibongile Khumalo, was the only South African on the panel of adjudicators. Barbara Hill-Moore (USA), Oswaldo Iraheta (El Salvador), Damon Nestor Ploumis (Germany), and Tomoko Takeuchi (Japan) judged the Classical Category with her. The jury members for the Jazz Category were Humphrey Campbell (The Netherlands), Carla Cook (USA), Trudy Kerr (Australia/UK), Judy Niemack (Germany) and Jeff Ramsey (USA).
Famous South African singers who have been finalists in the Unisa International Voice competitions include Raoul Beukes, Johan Botha (also a Vocal Art alumnus), Kobie van Rensburg and André Howard.