Ramon Alexander had no idea what to study after matric and took a gap year and studied jazz piano with Cape Town’s foremost jazz teacher at the time (1998), Merton Barrow at the Jazz Workshop.
He then received a bursary from South African Airways to study winemaking and started his BSc (Agric) in Viticulture and Oenology at Stellenbosch University (SU). “I was not a very good student during my winemaking course and quickly realised that I will never be a winemaker or viticulturist. I remember feeling so far removed from my fellow students as they already exuded the love and passion for their future career as I am currently doing in my ventures as a musician,” he recalls.
Nonetheless, Ramon obtained his degree in winemaking in 2004 while playing in bands and participating in Christian outreaches around campus with fellow students. He also formed a band called ESP Band along with a couple of friends, and it was here that he started to flex his muscles as a composer, band leader and arranger.
Ramon says he worked in a wine shop at a very fancy hotel for a short while after graduation, before a friend and fellow ESP bandmate approached him to teach music to underprivileged children in Stellenbosch and surrounds.
It was then that Felicia Lesch, at the SU Music Department, spotted him and recruited him to teach introductory jazz theory and jazz piano at the Music Certificate Programme presented at the Conservatory in Stellenbosch.
He was a part-time lecturer at the programme for 8 years. During his time at the Conservatory he started to record his own music. Firstly he released music with his ESP Band entitled Taxi 1022 (2010) and secondly, his debut album under his own name, Picnic at Kontiki (2011). His second album under his own name Echoes from Louwskloof (2015) allowed him to perform at the Cape Town International Jazz festival in 2016.
Currently, Ramon is a full-time musician doing work in recording studios, CD production, composition and session work for many musicians around the country. He is also employed as accompanist and arranger for the Libertas Choir in Stellenbosch. He has performed and recorded with a host of artists from around the country and the rest of the world in a variety of genres.
“I enjoy where the work takes me… meeting new people on a daily basis, seeing places all around the country, the continent and the rest of the world. I enjoy seeing my music reaching the corners of the world it has never been to. It is always exciting when I get to perform. I just want to look back on my life and ask myself, ‘did I live a meaningful life’?”
- By Elbie Els -