An international opera sensation says her choir master influenced her career choice.
Kelebogile Boikanyo (24) is the proud recipient of the 2012 Standard Bank Young Artist Award 2012 in music. She burst on to the opera music scene through her debut performance with international South African superstar, tenor Johan Botha, during Opera Africa's Opera Extravaganza in 2007. Since then, her rise has been nothing short of meteoric.
Born in Pretoria, this soprano singer studied vocal arts at Tshwane University of Technology. She was impressive as the voice of the high priestess in Verdi's Aïda and subsequently made her international debut as Queen Silomo in Opera Africa's production of the Zulu opera Princess Magogo at Den Norske Opera in Oslo in Norway.
Some of her other roles include Echo in Richard Strauss's Ariadne auf Naxos at the Royal Opera de Wallonie in Liège, Belgium, Musetta in Puccini's La Bohème, Micaela in Bizet's Carmen, Susanna in Angelo Gobbato's production of Mozart's Le nozze di Figaro and Gabisile in the Opera Africa world premiere of Ziyankomo and the Forbidden Fruit by Phelelani Mnomiya.
Boikanyo has also received accolades for singing the finale of Mahler's Symphony No4, Beethoven's Ninth Symphony and Mozart's Great Mass in C Minor with the Johannesburg Philharmonic Orchestra.
In mid-2012, she featured in the KwaZulu-Natal Philharmonic Orchestra productions of Mozart's Requiem Mass in D Minor and the Starlight Classics concert.
She also won a prize in two recitals and an orchestral gala concert at the 2012 Standard Bank National Arts Festival in Grahamstown.
How do you earn a living?
I am employed as a full-time associate artist by the opera company Opera Africa which is sponsored by the Maponya Group.
Here I am in a position to study opera roles and concert programmes under the artistic director, Hein de Villiers.
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Mabopane, north of Tshwane.
Which schools did you attend?
I started school at the age of five at Selelo Primary School. I went on to complete matric at technical and commercial high schools in Hebron.
Who was your favourite teacher and why?
At school, Mr Mokgethi, our choir master, showed faith in me. I enjoyed singing in his choir and also liked his enthusiasm for music. This inspired me to enter the Tirisano Schools Choral Eisteddfod, where I won the top prize.
Are you still in contact with him?
Yes, I am still in contact with him. We keep in touch telephonically.
What were your favourite subjects and why?
I enjoyed my school years and I especially enjoyed learning languages. My favourite subject was singing, simply because I had a beautiful voice and wanted to express myself through music.
In your view, what are the qualities of a good teacher?
A good teacher can connect with pupils and communicates clearly. In singing we emphasise: "Say what you mean and mean what you say!" I think this could apply to teachers too.
What are the things a teacher should never say or do?
Teachers should never be negative when they talk to pupils, like saying, "I told you so!" or "You let us down!" or "Wena, o ithaa o re o botoka mo bathong botlhe!" This Tswana expression means: "You think you're better than everybody else!"
What message do you have for South African teachers?
I know teachers are the heart and soul of our country's present and future. Love your work, love your learners - and give them a vision. I have been fortunate to experience exactly that with my mentors and coaches.