Listen: Orchestra maestro who makes schools shine

Henry

“I am very proud of my children. Working with young musicians is one of the great joys in my life,” says Eddie Clayton in an interview in RNews’s studio.

Eddie, a Naledi-awarded musical director, conductor, music arranger and composer, has a career in the music world spanning three decades. He started as senior conductor of the army’s ceremonial band, where he was involved for 14 years.

After that, Eddie worked in musical theater for almost a decade before he chose the direction of the orchestra. At the time, he did musicals with Deon Opperman, including “The Sound of Music” in which Steve Hofmeyr played the role of capt. Von Trapp performed, “My Fair Lady” and “Get dressed!”.

In 2012, Eddie was awarded a Naledi theater prize for best musical director for “Dress up!” awarded “That production is one of the highlights of my career. I think it’s because I was in the army myself and could use my experience to guide the actors.”

Since then he has conducted major and famous concerts, such as Housemate Spectacle, Classics are big, Disney 100 – The Concert and a live concert of Your own choice which was presented in celebration of RSG’s 85th anniversary.

Eddie is also the man behind nine school and youth orchestras that have achieved success on various occasions, and in between he gives music lessons in various instruments.

This is a mouthful, but more or less in a nutshell, how Eddie experienced 2023.

“This year was the first time since the Covid-19 pandemic broke out that we were able to function normally. On the contrary, my wife, Zita, and I have never been so busy in our lives. It was a fantastic year.”

Eddie and the singer Zita quietly married on Christmas Eve in December 2018. In the meantime, this couple has become two hundred percent richer and Eddie hopes to spend more time with his family in 2024.

“It is extremely difficult to find a balance between my work and family life. We see each other many times on a Sunday evening when we all have dinner together, and then again at the end of the week. Because I’m so busy, we live past each other.

“My schedule is slightly different from someone else’s who works from 08:00 to 17:00, and even if I see my children at other times, it remains difficult. That’s why I want to prioritize my family in 2024 and spend more time with them.”

It starts with a wonderful home holiday that lies ahead for them and which Eddie is terribly excited about.

These schools shine thanks to Eddie

Eddie’s involvement in school and youth orchestras has been going on for a few years. He has been directing the youth symphony orchestra of Afrikaans Hoër Meisieskool Pretoria (AHMP) for 11 years and he has also been involved in Waterkloof Hoërskool’s concert orchestra in Pretoria for the past seven years.

A highlight of Eddie’s year is a performance at Oranje Meisies Hoër in Bloemfontein where a load shedding shrouded the hall and the stage in darkness during the AHMP orchestra’s rendition of Ennio Morricone’s “Gabriel’s Oboe” from the film The Mission.

RNews reported that this band continued to play without any interruption in the middle of a pitch-dark hall.

“Affies girls’ band is the point of my heart. They continued to play like angels when the power went out during their performance in Bloemfontein. I’m terribly proud of them.”

Under Eddie’s direction, Waterkloof Hoërskool’s concert band won second place this year in the Symphonia National School Band Festival and Competition in George. “The Klofie band is in a different class. They are really phenomenal.”

Other orchestras that thrive under his leadership are Simfonia Juventi, the Johannesburg Youth Orchestra, the Johannesburg Symphony Orchestra, Pretoria Boys’ High School, St. Stithians College – a private English school in Sandton, and Cornwall Hill College in Centurion’s junior and senior orchestras.

“Next year is going to be slightly different because of my decision to downsize. So I’m going to coach two less orchestras, but it’s better that way. I’m not getting any younger,” jokes Eddie.