Reddam House Umhlanga matriculant with 5 distinctions envisions becoming one of the first black conductors in SA

Sam Mdakane. Picture: Supplied

Sam Mdakane. Picture: Supplied

Published Feb 2, 2024


Durban – A Reddam House Umhlanga matriculant, Samkelo (Sam) Mdakane, who matriculated with five distinctions aims to become one of the first black conductors in South Africa.

Mdakane’s story took a beautiful turn when his benefactor, Georgie Carter, discovered him singing in a rural school.

Mdakane joined Reddam House in Grade 10, with the support of the Carters. He not only excelled academically but also emerged as a leader in the role of matric representative.

Sam Mdakane playing keyboard. Picture: Supplied

His involvement in the arts, as a member of the KZN Youth Choir and KZN Youth Wind Band, showcases his talents.

He was accepted to study music at the University of Pretoria and envisioned becoming one of the first black conductors in South Africa.

Mdakane achieved some excellent results in matric: 88% for music, 88% for maths literacy, 91% for business studies, 90% for isiZulu and 86% for life orientation.

In a conversation with Mdakane, he spoke about the transformative chapters of his life. From a rural school to the Drakensberg Boys Choir and Reddam House Umhlanga and now being accepted at university, his story is one marked by resilience, talent, and an unwavering passion for music.

Sam Mdakane performing on stage. Picture: Supplied

Can you take us back to the moment when Georgie Carter discovered you singing in a rural school? How did that encounter change your life? What was your initial reaction to the opportunity presented by Georgie Carter?

Wow, I think I was about 9 years old when Georgie discovered me. It changed my life completely. Yes, I was good at singing, but I never thought I would take music as a career. Georgie made all of that possible for me. My initial reaction was a mix of nervousness and excitement, knowing it was a fresh start with new opportunities.

Transitioning from a rural school to the Drakensberg Boys Choir must have been a significant adjustment. What were some of the challenges you faced during that transition and how did you overcome them?

Transitioning to the Drakensberg Boys Choir was a significant adjustment. English proficiency was a challenge, so I took extra classes. Socialising with peers from more privileged backgrounds was also challenging, but I adjusted my attitude and focused on building camaraderie.

Sam Mdakane delivering an inspiration speech to fellow matrics. Picture: Supplied

The Carters continued to support you when you joined Reddam House Umhlanga in Grade 10. How has their ongoing support, coupled with the opportunities provided by Reddam House Umhlanga, impacted your academic and artistic journey?

The Carters’ support means everything. They pushed me to strive for my best academically and artistically. Joining Reddam House Umhlanga in Grade 10 was a turning point. The school provided an environment where I could flourish, develop leadership skills, and further my artistic journey. Their support, combined with the opportunities at Reddam House, significantly contributed to my personal and artistic development.

Achieving five distinctions in your matric results is a remarkable accomplishment. Can you share some of the strategies and habits that helped you excel academically while also being involved in various artistic pursuits?

Faith, discipline, and balance were crucial. Having faith in myself amidst academic pressure, finding the discipline to focus, and balancing work and play was key. It was about planning, organisation, and ensuring time for both academics and my passion for music and the arts.

Accolades and awards for Sam Mdakane. Picture: Supplied

As the matric representative at Reddam House Umhlanga, you held a leadership position equivalent to head boy. How did this role shape your perspective on leadership, and what lessons did you learn from it?

The role taught me about servant leadership – being in service to the people you lead. Leading by example and giving of oneself unselfishly were vital lessons. It reshaped my perspective on leadership, emphasising service and camaraderie. Reddam House Umhlanga provided a platform where I could apply and enhance these leadership skills.

Being a part of the KZN Youth Choir and KZN Youth Wind Band must have been a unique and enriching experience. How did your involvement in these groups contribute to your personal and artistic growth?

It was a unique experience that taught me to work with others. Being part of ensembles enhanced my interpersonal skills and provided a perspective on being a musician. A conductor must understand the ensemble and my participation contributed to my growth.

Sam Mdakane playing in the school band. Picture: Supplied

You’ve been accepted to study music at Tuks. What are your expectations and aspirations as you embark on this next chapter of your academic and musical journey?

I aspire to be a conductor. Studying at Tuks is exciting, and I plan to learn from other musicians, and conductors and eventually study internationally. The goal is to return to South Africa as a seasoned conductor.

Your dream of becoming one of the first black conductors in South Africa is inspiring. Can you share the significance of this goal for you and what steps you plan to take to achieve it?

It’s a big dream, but I believe in dreaming big. I plan to study, build connections, learn from other musicians, and eventually study internationally. Learning from experienced conductors is key to achieving my goal.

The showmanship of Sam Mdakane. Picture: Supplied

Looking back at your journey so far, what advice would you give to other young individuals facing adversity or pursuing their dreams, especially in the realm of music and the arts?

Have faith in yourself. Avoid comparing yourself to others. Focus on personal growth, put in the work, and believe that with time and effort, success will come. It’s about continuous improvement and staying true to your passion.

Reddam House added that Mdakane’s story was a testament to the transformative power of mentorship, unwavering support, and a steadfast dedication to one’s passion. As he embarks on his academic and musical journey at the University of Pretoria, he is poised to make a significant impact on the world of music, inspiring aspiring musicians across South Africa.

Sam Mdakane accepting a trophy from Adam Rogers. Picture: Supplied

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