From rehearsals at a Katlehong school the orchestra came to life, expanding to 32 members on string, percussion, brass and woodwind instruments. “As soon as I saw them and their instruments, I got really nervous,” says Pitse, putting her hands to her temples. “ ‘Who am I to lead these people?’ I thought. But I saw at church how the Mkhulu (Khumalo) conducted so I went for it.”
Orchestral conductor Gerrit Grooten — a seasoned professional who has performed worldwide — was intrigued by what Pitse had accomplished without formal teaching and began coaching her early in 2020, which he still does at least once a week.
He says: “Most conductors come to me through the normal channels after a career in the professional world but she was completely left field: a trumpet player with an architectural degree.”
Her immense “raw talent and raw passion” and unique vision, to lead an African orchestra, were irresistible.
“Ofentse has had an upside-down journey. It was a mystery to me how far she had got without any lessons,” says Grooten, who at the time was conducting the Pretoria Symphony Orchestra, the Pretoria Bach Choir and the South African New Music Ensemble. “It is quite a miracle.
“She had already worked with professional orchestras and choirs and drawn the attention of good musicians. She had success performing in the Mandela Theatre. She is truly a pioneer, doing what has never been done before.”
Thami Zungu, the vocal arts director and conductor at Tshwane University of Technology’s performing arts department, praises her power to bring musicians together.
“We do not have many female conductors and she is very brave and passionate about the art form.” Within a year, Anchored Sound sang on stage at the Gauteng Youth Expo and in 2019 her orchestra ensemble performed with award-winning singer Judith Sephuma.
They also performed Khumalo’s uShaka KaSenzangakhona and Princess Magogo at the Joburg Theatre.
To prepare for this epic, Zungu helped Pitse to develop conducting technique. “We were also analysing the score and paying attention to details,” he says. “It was nerve-racking,” remembers Pitse, who went ahead with the performance despite sponsorship difficulties. “We had a theatre to realise our dreams and that evening was pure magic.”