While many teenagers spend their free time battling monsters online or plugging into the latest pop tunes, 14-year-old Leo Gevisser, of Rondebosch, composes classical music and enjoys listening to Chopin and Bach.
Leo believes his taste for classical music can be traced back to the soothing Mozart melodies his parents played to lull him to sleep as an infant.
Leo is taught by professors Nina Schumann and Luis Magahaes from Stellenbosch University, and he has a string of awards under his belt for his mastery of the piano and violin.
In the past year alone, Leo won the gold medal and first prize at the SAMRO Hubert van der Spuy National Music Competition and he also took home prizes for: the piano category; the best performance of a South African composer in the first found; the best performance of a classical work in the second round; and the best performance of a romantic work in the third round.
Apart from the competitions Leo has won, he has also been invited to perform as a soloist with many of the country’s leading orchestras.
Last year, he performed with the Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra for the Len van Zyl Conductors Competition and was invited to perform Shostakovich’s Piano Concerto No. 1 with the Stellenbosch Orchestra for the Oude Libertas Summer Concert Series.
“A highlight for me professionally was when I won my first competition, the Atterbury National Piano Competition and they announced that I won the entire competition,” says Leo.
“Another highlight for me was when I was invited to master classes at Adamant Music School in Vermont, USA, with master pedagogue Mehahim Pressler.
“I was shocked,” says Leo’s mother, Justine Gevisser. “I thought that he may stand a chance in his age category (the 11 to 12 year category), but he ended up winning the entire competition, which was aged 19 years and younger.
Justine noticed her son’s musical talent when he started Grade R at Bishops Pre-Prep, and although he was not in the proper grade to receive musical lessons at the school, she asked for his musical ability to be tested. This opened the door to his musical development.
“He received a music scholarship to attend Bishops College, but the schooling routine didn’t give him much freedom to practise his music,” says Justine.
So now Leo is home schooled, and this gives him plenty of time to practise his music.
Leo will now play at the Legendes Klassique concert at the Artscape Theatre on Freedom Day, Thursday April 27.
The concert will pay tribute to some of South Africa’s greatest musical talents.
Leo will join other talented performers, including pianist Qden Blaauw, violinist Paul Loeb van Zuilenberg, soprano Beverley Chiat and baritone George Stevens.
He will perform the first movement of Grieg’s Piano Concerto in A