Denied by Apartheid, 74 Year Old Pianist Finally Makes Debut




In 1960, with apartheid in full swing, 18 year old Reggie Dreyer auditioned to play as a concert pianist for the Cape Town Symphony Orchestra. The young protégé passed the audition and was accepted into the orchestra. The apartheid government however prohibited Coloureds from playing and the orchestra had to deny him his spot as a pianist. More than fifty years later, Reggie’s dreams finally came true when he performed Mozart’s, ‘Piano Concerto no. 23 in A, K. 488’, with the Cape Philharmonic Orchestra.

It was often the case that talented young men and women like Reggie escaped the oppression of apartheid by going overseas to pursue their dreams. However, as the second youngest of 13 children, Reggie’s parents depended on him and he had to stay at home to put food on the table. Reggie went on to study at the College of Music,  obtained a licentiate from Trinity, a Bachelor of Music degree from Unisa, a choir training diploma and a teaching certificate.

Reggie says that although he still dreamt of being a pianist, his priorities changed with each passing year. In addition to having to provide for his parents, he became a teacher; got married to his wife, Mattie; and became a father. He taught up until his retirement in 1993.

In 2016, with the encouragement of his church minister, the now 74 year old Reggie decided to audition again and once again, he impressed. Despite now having seven grandchildren, the 18 year old protégé was still very much alive. Mattie says that he nearly jumped to the ceiling when he heard that he once again passed the audition.

Reggie does not carry any bitterness about the past and he does not regret any of the decisions he made. Although he was disadvantaged as a young person, all he wants to do now is play his concerto.
His family has always been his priority and he is happy that they got to see him perform. His daughter lives in London and she flew back to South Africa to watch her father’s debut. He is also happy that his friends and some of the students he taught was also in the audience.

Reggie loves all sorts of music, but classical music has always been his favourite.  “It has a way of soothing and calming me down. I really enjoy it”, says Reggie. He still works part-time in choir training and jazz at the South Peninsula High School; and he is an organist and choir master at his church.

Reggie says that after 50 years, he is just happy to be doing what he had dreamed of. He had always known that his dream would come true, and seven grandchildren later, it did.

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