Thomas Pooley, director of the music department at the University of South Africa, has started working as new director of the UNISA Competition

The music department of the University of South Africa in Pretoria has appointed Thomas Pooley, a pianist, as successor of Karendra Devroop, who has left UNISA at the end of last year:

Thomas Pooley is Professor of Music at the University of South Africa and new Artistic Director of the Unisa International Music Competitions. He trained in classical piano under Ruth Goveia and Isabella Stengel at the University of Kwazulu-Natal where he won the piano scholarship competition before pursuing graduate studies in musicology at Wits University. He was awarded the Benjamin Franklin and Booth Ferris Fellowships for a PhD in music at the University of Pennsylvania where he specialized in music and linguistics, and Chopin studies. He returned to South Africa in 2013 to take up a lectureship in music at Unisa. He is a scholar of African pianism and composition, and has published widely on indigenous song, choral music, and opera in South Africa. He serves as editor-in-chief of Muziki: Journal of Music Research in Africa and is founding managing editor of the open access journal, Analytical Approaches to African Music. Thomas is committed to advancing community music education projects for social inclusion, and to developing and promoting African music on the global stage.

The UNISA Music Foundation presents its national music competitions in exactly the same format than its international music competitions with the specific aim to accustom young South African musicians to the stringent standards applied internationally.  So far a national organ, two piano and one string competition preceded the Unisa International Music Competitions in which the first prize winner and runner-up competed against a selected number of young overseas musicians.

The first International Music Competition (for piano) was held at Unisa in Pretoria in 1982.  The winner of this event a Canadian pianist Marc-André Hammelin has since then established himself as a sought after international pianist.  Other prize winners at Unisa include sopranos Renée Fleming and Sumi Jo, tenors Johan Botha and Kobie van Rensburg, cellists Alexander Knyazev, and Jerôme Pernoo, violinists Benjamin Schmidt, Dmitri Makhtin. 

Famous judges of the competitions include Guido Agosti, Georgy Sandor, Marie Claire Alain, Maria Kliegel, Martina Arroyo, John O’Connor, Sergey Dorensky and many others.


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