December's Young Artist: Neo Motsatse
NC: How did your life as a violinist begin?
NM: I started playing the violin at the age of 6 years old. My father worked in the music industry which meant he got invited to a lot of orchestral concerts. I remember being so enchanted by the violins when I saw them on stage, in fact the very next day I told my parents that I wanted to start playing the violin. However during that time I only thought of it as a hobby. I had severe stage fright so I never thought I would make it as a musician. That is until my parents created small home concerts for me to perform at in order to conquer my stage fright. This happened when I was 9 years and when I was 10 I asked if I could have a bigger concert, not at home but at a venue, with more people to watch me play. I had conquered my fear of performing. I was no longer running away from the stage but towards it, and that is the moment my life as a musician began.
NC: Do you come from a musical family background?
NM: My sister and I are actually the only professional musicians in our family however my family does have a music background. My grandfather played piano which he was very passionate about. My mother and aunt love to sing and have beautiful voices. So there is some musical genes in the family.
NC: What do you love most about the violin?
NM: When I look at the violin, I see a beautifully crafted, delicate instrument. When I saw it for the first time, it looked so effortless and like the most simplest thing in the world, and yet it isn't. And that's what I love most about it. The deception of looking and sounding simple and fragile and yet it's one of the most hardest instruments in the world to master.
NC: Are there any musical compositions in particular that speak to you the most?
NM: There have many pieces that have spoken to me in different ways, each telling a different story, which requires a different emotion. However one piece that stands out is Nocturne in c# minor by Chopin. I remember when I was younger seeing a recording of Itzhak Perlman playing the piece and I knew there was nothing I wanted more than to one day be able to play that piece like him.
NC: If you could play only 1 piece of music for the rest of your life, what would it be and why?
NM: If I could only play 1 piece for the rest of my life it would Meditation from Thais by Jules Massenet. When I started learning to play this piece I struggled with it a lot. From the shifts to the interpretation it just wasn't an easy piece for me. But through practice and coaching and really digging deep it has become one of my favorite pieces that I have ever performed
NC: Who are the people that have inspired you the most?
NM: Over the years I have had a lot of violinists that I have looked up to, Itzhak Perlman, David Garrett, Sarah Chang, the list goes on. But the people that inspire me most are my parents. They make me want to do better and be better because they have done anything and everything they can for me.
NC: Where do you have dreams of performing one day?
NM: There are many beautiful theatres and concert venues in the world and I fully intend on performing in all of them. From the Sydney Opera House in Australia to The Parlais Garnier in Paris, for me there is no limit on where I can leave my mark.
NC: If you could spend a day with any musician past or present, who would it be, and why?
NM: I would love to have spent a day with Beethoven. He didn't let the fact that he was losing his hearing stop him from doing what he loved most. He used the vibration of the instrument and his imagination to compose beautiful music. Seeing that process in person would've been amazing.
NC: What music is currently on your playlist?
NM: I actually have a very diverse playlist, I enjoy listening to all genres. However classically I'm enjoying a lot of virtuoso pieces such as Scherzo-Tarantelle by Wieniawski, 24 Caprices by Paganini, Bruch Concerto No.1 in g minor. I really enjoy African music as well. In fact recently I played a rendition of Vivaldi's Winter arranged by a fantastic flutist Wouter Kellerman. The piece was introduced to African rhythms and sounded fantastic.
NC: Where do you see yourself in 10 years time?
NM: I use my music as a vehicle for change. I started my annual concerts called Neo Motsatse the Concert in 2010 at the age of 10, and in 10 years-time I will use this platform to offer performance opportunities to young musicians in South Africa who won't have opportunities that I had. In 2014, I started "Make things Happen" concerts in partnership with NEDBANK and through that inspired a lot of primary school learners. In 2016 I founded a girl empowerment initiative called Girl Power South Africa that inspires girls in South Africa to find their power within and reach their highest potential. In 2018 I started the women empowered music series, the premier concert was called "Letters with MaSisulu", in commemoration of Albertina Sisulu's centenary birthday, in honour of her contribution to the nation and in keeping her legacy. Neo Motsatse the Concert and Letters with MaSisulu has earned me the Standard Bank Standing Ovation Awards at the National Arts Festival in 2016 and 2018. In 10 years I see myself spreading more love, joy and positive messages with my music on stages across the world. I also see myself making a difference, starting with my country, then the continent and eventually the world empowering children, girls and young woman for a better future.