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"Music is our life; it reflects what we go through"

The Unisa Choir comprising staff and students is renowned for injecting a jovial mood and leaving memorable marks in the minds of many during the institution's august occasions. Established in 2000 under the tutelage of Emeritus Professor Johannes Shole, the choir members rehearse during their lunchtime on weekdays. These members are driven by the philosophy, "Music is our life; it reflects what we go through".

The Unisa Choir demonstrating the university’s 150th anniversary celebrations

In 2001, the choir was conducted by an esteemed former Unisa Musicology Lecturer, Thembela Vokwana. Unfortunately, they lost the talented leader and conductor after he won the prestigious Fulbright scholarship to enable him to further his studies at Wesleyan University in Connecticut, United States of America. The same year, the choir performed at the South African Tertiary Institution Choral Association (SATICA) Festival. Later that year, it represented the country in Singapore after being invited by the South African High Commissioner to participate in the Africa Week event.

Among other highlights, they performed at the Vodacom Chancellor's Concert in 2002, and in the following year, they participated at the International Cultural Heritage Fair in Windhoek, Namibia. Between 2003 and 2010, they also participated in the Old Mutual National Choir Festival, receiving accolades for second and third place twice. Having made its mark, between 2008 and 2010, the choir was a regular participant at the World War II Annual Commemorations hosted by Australian and New Zealand Embassies.

Additionally, in 2009, the choir was invited to perform at the Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) Confederation Cup and Rugby Championship at Soccer City and Ellis Park Stadiums. From the year 2000 to date, the choir has performed at numerous prestigious events such as special graduations, inaugurations and investitures of Unisa Chancellors and Vice-Chancellors: esteemed Judge Bernard Ngoepe (former Chancellor) and Dr Thabo Mbeki (current Chancellor), as well as Prof Barney Pityana (former VC) and Prof Mandla Makhanya (former VC), among others. It has also performed during inductions of Chairpersons of the Unisa Council, inaugural lectures and other university milestone celebrations.

Unisa Choir leadership from left: Promise Mnguni, Itumeleng Molefe, Phore Mareme, Teboho Radebe and Nomsa Chauke

The choir is currently conducted by Itumeleng Molefe of the College of Human Sciences, playing a pivotal role in enhancing its musical repertoires. As such, the ensemble is fast gaining a significant reputation within the music circle. Molefe remarks: "Unisa's 150th anniversary celebrations provide an opportunity to reflect on the past, evaluate the present and reimagine the future musically." He adds: "As a choir, we look ahead to future challenges and opportunities with a focus to continue making a difference through music, nationally and beyond."

To further celebrate the university's 150th milestone, Molefe says the choir will recruit 150 choristers by June 2023 to anchor its musical repertoire further and embody the spirit of service to humanity. He adds that they intend to compete nationally and internationally to promote brand Unisa. "As an institution of higher learning resolute in creating opportunities to access not only in higher education but also success, our institution should celebrate this milestone by fostering a culture of excellence through the arts such as music," he remarks.

The Unisa Choir is currently on a recruitment campaign, calling on melodically talented Unisans to join the group. Interested individuals can contact Teboho Radebe at or Itumeleng Molefe at for further information.

#Unisa150      #Unisa150Stories

* Submitted by Itumeleng Molefe, Unisa Choir Conductor

* Packaged by Nancy Legodi, Acting Senior Journalist, Department of Institutional Advancement

* Photographer: Shooheima Champion, Unisa Multimedia Centre

Publish date: 2023/03/17

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