Six brave South African leaders step up to the podium for this year’s BASA Conduct the Orchestra

Six South African leaders are bravely swapping the worlds of business, media, and philanthropy for the conducting podium as part of 2018’s Business And Arts South Africa’s Conduct the Orchestra.

A highlight of the annual Johannesburg International Mozart Festival, this one-of-a-kind event is as nerve-wracking for the participants as it is highly entertaining for the audience who get the chance to see South African leaders step out of their comfort zone.

But witnessing these novice conductors taking the Johannesburg Festival Orchestra through their paces, under the careful guidance of conductor Richard Cock, has a serious side – and that is to vividly highlight the very real link between the steady hand needed to conduct an orchestra and the qualities that make a leader in the business world.

Cock says the chance to see six South African leaders “let loose” on a professional orchestra should not be missed by anyone with an interest in how the arts aligns with business and other fields.

Says the renowned conductor, “If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to conduct an orchestra for the first time, or what it’s like to co-ordinate 40 diversely talented people at the same time, in order to create a well-oiled, smoothly functioning group, then now’s your chance to find out.”

This year the volunteer conductors are Ciko Thomas, Managing Executive: Nedbank Retail and Business Banking; Marcus Desando, CEO of The Arts and Culture Trust; Robyn Cox, Managing Director at IMG South Africa; Carolyn Steyn, philanthropist (67 Blankets for Nelson Mandela Day), actress and arts patron, Brenda Sisane, presenter of Kaya FM’s The Art of Sunday music and lifestyle show, and Thabi Leoka, independent economist.

Nedbank’s Thomas (who has a BSc in chemistry), ACTS’s Desando (a trained opera singer and a Naledi awards nominee); IMG’s Cox (an acknowledged leader in golf and athlete management, amongst other areas), Steyn (who holds an honours degree in Speech and Drama) and Kaya FM’s Sisane (also Executive Director of SPIN Foundation and Managing Member of SPIN Productions) are all hard at work, learning their chosen pieces ahead of the event.

“As a business leader, you get satisfaction from other people’s accomplishments” Cock has stated. “Whereas technical experts are doers, the best managers are enablers and influencers and BASA Conduct The Orchestra makes that fascinating link.”

“We believe that one of the roles of BASA is to broaden the understanding and relationship between business and the arts, and this particular event does that with humor and excellent insights”, adds BASA CEO Michelle Constant.

This year the Space Frame Theatre is the venue for BASA Conduct The Orchestra, which takes place on Friday February 2nd.

The event is open to the public with seats secured via a donation to the Johannesburg Youth Orchestra, this year’s chosen music project.

To book your seat at BASA’s Conduct the Orchestra email before January 31st.


Event details:

Date: Friday February 2nd 2018

Time: 2pm – 5pm

Venue: Space Frame Theatre, Linder Auditorium Complex, Wits Education Complex, Parktown (entrance in St Andrews Road)


About BASA


Business and Arts South Africa (BASA) NPC is an internationally recognised South African development agency with a suite of integrated programmes implemented nationally and internationally.  BASA encourages mutually beneficial partnerships between business and the arts, securing the future development of the arts sector in South Africa and contributing to corporate success through Shared Value.  BASA was founded in 1997 as a joint initiative of the Department of Arts and Culture and the business sector as a public/private partnership.  For more information on BASA, contact us on 011 447 2295 or visit our website:


About Johannesburg International Mozart Festival

The Johannesburg International Mozart Festival (JIMF) is an annual collaborative festival, held in January, which encourages the promotion of classical music in Johannesburg, as well as the greater Gauteng surrounds. The festival hosts events of many different types including orchestral concerts, interdisciplinary collaborations and educational initiatives, which include both local and international artists. The inaugural festival was held in 2006 to celebrate the 250th birthday of WA Mozart, but in 2018, JIMF will see the 10th iteration of its current format. The Johannesburg International Mozart Festival commemorates the 262nd birthday of the great composer in eight Johannesburg venues. For more information on JIMF contact us on 011 447 9264 or visit our website:


About RCME

Richard Cock Music Enterprises is the company through which Richard Cock, South Africa’s own ‘Mr. Classical Music’, runs his entrepreneurial activities. These range from conducting to motivational talks, relating business to the arts. He is equally happy working with leading international soloists and introducing young children to the joys of classical music through various educational initiatives. His activities take him to all corners of South Africa, working with both amateurs and professionals. For more information on Richard’s activities contact his office on 011 447 9264 or visit his website


Dakalo Rambau Speech

A few weeks from now, it will be my 13th year at JYOC, I recall it was on the 1st Saturday of the 2nd public school term, I don’t remember the day though so if someone can Google that for me, it will be much appreciated…

I was 10, turning 11, doing what kids do… playing… whatever… before that time, musicians, especially orchestral musicians, were just people I admired, the way they expressed themselves when playing, the way they expressed each note they played, how they moved when they played in such a way that you moved too, it was hypnotising, felt like I was a part of it, felt like I was up there with them on stage…

Sadly at that time though, even though, I was a kid, it seemed like a pipe dream, no way could someone like me be someone like that, I had made peace with that, peace with just being an admirer, maybe I’ll, at least, get to watch someday.

I didn’t tell my dad I wanted to be a musician, but he could see it, he could see that it was eating me up, even though I wouldn’t admit it, so he looked for schools with a music syllabus, too expensive, some like we wouldn’t believe, of course they would be, this was after all a pipe dream. During his search, he bumped into a friend, who at the time was teaching at the Johannesburg Youth Orchestra Company and was wondering if I would be interested in taking lessons when my dad asked me this question, I replied with a question “why are we still here???”

That brought me to my first Saturday, 13 years ago, at the Eyethu Music Project, an outreach programme by JYOC, where I took my first ever music lesson, you would think my first instrument was one to show off, no, it was recorder, when I got it I thought, “you’re kidding me right?”, apparently I had to play it first before I could choose an orchestral instrument, oh well, I didn’t have a better idea so I stuck with it, and passed, then I could choose my next instrument.

You would think I chose a common instrument, nope, it was tuba, as you can tell by my size, everyone was choosing instruments they could brag about, for vanity, such as saxophone and violin, I was about to make the same mistake, then someone tipped me telling me there are instruments that are scarce, I could stand out by choosing one of them, which is how I chose tuba, you should’ve seen my first lesson, disaster, I nearly collapsed trying to blow the thing! I kept at though, this year I’ll be doing my Grade 8, I’m also a percussionist in the senior orchestra, I also started an internship with them, this week was my first week, my goodness!!!!!

I’m very thankful though, this company has become a major part of me, an unavoidable part, one that describes very well who I am, my story is just one of the stories of musicians who’ve had their lives changed completely like you won’t believe, simply because there was a company that gave them a chance. I couldn’t possibly fill the shoes of those that made that happen from the beginning, and I have big feet, I could at least continue from where they left off, for now.