The University of Stellenbosch Symphonic Wind Ensemble (USSWE), originally named the Stellenbosch Concert Band, was established by Dr. Paul Loeb van Zuilenburg in 1976, with only 10 members. This was, in fact, the first university level Wind Band to be established in the Western Cape.
Faan Malan, a graduate of the Music Department, was the conductor from 1986 – 1990, and established the popular Stellenbosch Band Festival, which ran for a number of years. His successor was Mervyn Solomon (1991 – 1998) who undertook three successful tours to England and Scotland in 1993, 1995 and 1997 with the ensemble. His successor was Andries Smit, who assumed directorship from 1999 – 2000.
The late Albert Engel was the first full-time brass lecturer at the Music Department. Albert, who played a leading role in the music of the Moravian Church, was responsible for integrating the broader community, including church and service band musicians, into the University of Stellenbosch Symphonic Wind Band. Professor Corvin Matei took over the ensemble at very short notice after the tragic passing of Mr Engel, and expanded the repertoire of the Wind Band to incorporate some of the more challenging works for this type of ensemble.
Pamela Kierman was appointed as brass lecturer at the Music Department and conductor of the Stellenbosch University Symphonic Wind Ensemble in February 2004 and, together with the previous orchestra manager, Michelle Pietersen, added a community interaction component to all performances of the ensemble; learners from music projects in close proximity to Stellenbosch are invited to all performances of this ensemble in the Endler Hall.
Since February 2008, the SU Symphonic Wind Ensemble has been managed by Peter Martens, Artistic Manager for the Stellenbosch University Department of Music and Conservatorium. In 2006, Pamela Kierman incorporated an annual Band Extravaganza into the band’s schedule; the May Endler Concert Series concert includes performances by guest bands, somewhat reminiscent of the previous Stellenbosch Band Festivals. USSWE has shared the stage with a variety of bands and ensembles over the years, including the Cape Philharmonic Youth Wind Ensemble, the University of Stellenbosch Jazz band and Brass Ensemble, the South African Army Band, Cape Town, Simply Brass, a brass ensemble of the Moravian Brass Band Union of South Africa (BBSA), directed by Rudi Engel and the Albert Engel Trombone Consort.
Since 2012, USSWE has partnered with high schools from both the northern and suburbs for the annual Band Extravaganza performance. Wind bands that have performed at this annual concert include Durbanville High School Wind Band, The Wynberg Boy’s and Wynberg Girls’ High School Concert Band, Bellville High School Symphonic Wind Ensemble and the Hugo Lambrechts Music Centre Concert Band.
The annual September performance, where the SU Symphonic Wind Ensemble is often joined by Windworx and the City of Tygerberg Choir, is devoted to Wind Band music of a more academic and challenging nature, conducted by guest conductors. Past guest conductors have included Robert Maxym, Allan Stephenson, Sean Kierman, Rik Gesqhuière and Phil Golson. This annual September performance often sees a collaboration between USSWE, the Composition Department, and the Orchestral Conducting Department, headed up by Proffesors Hans Roosenschoon and Corvin Matei, respectively. Student composers are provided with an opportunity to showcase their works for wind band, and student conductors are afforded the opportunity to conduct at this performance, under the guidance of the guest conductors. In September 2015, the Endler Performance was part of the KOMPOS Symposium and USSWE performed contemporary works by student composers, as well as Sefirot, by reknowned South African composer, Jeanne Zaidel-Rudolph, under the baton of Flemish conductor, Rik Gesqhuière.
September concerts are generally also preceded by a pre-concert performance by learners enrolled in the music programmes of the Rural Engagement Programme of the Certificate Programmes in Music, or the Service Learning class.
The University of Stellenbosch Symphonic Wind Ensemble draws together a diverse group of people, who rehearse every Monday evening and are devoted to the promotion of the Wind Band idiom as an educational tool, a creative outlet and a means of communication in the current day South Africa.