Meet the founder of Africa’s first fully black-owned orchestra
Ofentse Pitse founded Anchored Sound, an all-black symphony orchestra and choir, and she's just getting started with her work to inspire others
At 30 years of age, Ofentse Pitse has learnt the divine lesson of believing in the power of dreams. She recently graduated with honours in architecture and is studying towards her master’s. But more than architecture, she’s proven herself a woman of worth with classical music as founder of Anchored Sound, the first fully black-owned orchestra on the African continent.
Her love for music was cultivated at a young age. Her family was active in the Salvation Army and Pitse found herself drawn to its brass band. “My mom would take me to these functions where I was exposed to real, deep music so I got an understanding of the power and the depth of music early on,” she says. “I was exposed to so much that I had no option but to fall in love.”
Pitse learnt to play the trumpet at church with the Salvation Army at the age of 12, soon adding the English horn, flugelhorn and cornet to her repertoire and moving beyond gospel into genres such as classical and jazz music.
Eventually, she progressed from musician to conductor and in 2017 she founded Anchored Sound, the all-black symphony orchestra and choir, at the age of 25.
As Pitse explains, the idea to start the orchestra came from wanting to give back. “I attended this choir competition in the East Rand where these young kids would be competing for their respective high schools in the categories of African and classical music,” she says. “I wondered what I could do to help them be known, because I believe in stories and I felt like their stories needed to be told far more than just them singing [for their schools].”
It wasn’t an easy start for Pitse, who faced challenges in seeking out help from mentors and sponsors — all this is as a young female in a male-dominated industry.
But she persevered and today Anchored Sound boasts a 40-piece orchestra alongside a 25-strong choir.
Her biggest achievement, she says, is creating a seat at the table in unconventional spaces. A recent example of this was as a guest speaker at the Veuve Clicquot Bold Woman Award, another opportunity for her to represent classical music in spaces that aren’t traditionally centred on music.
WATCH | Judith Sephuma performs with Anchored Sound'.
A highlight for her was being invited by Judith Sephuma to perform in The Power of Dreams in 2019 at a time when she felt at her lowest; a dream she aspires to achieve is performing Ushaka KaSenzangakhona, the isiZulu original music and praise poetry epic written by professor Mzilikazi Khumalo, at the Sydney Opera House in Australia with her orchestra and choir. She also dreams of conducting a Beyoncé show with the queen bee herself. “It will happen,” she insists.
For now, she continues to focus on collaborating — in music and in her work as an architect, a field in which she hopes to define a distinctly South African style.
“I want to drive inclusivity because it’s hard to belong, either in a boardroom or a soundstage. Being a black woman, I have had to learn how to assert myself in male dominated environments, to defend my work. And that is my vision and my purpose. To say to others who feel that they don’t belong, you can, you do, you must. There is no limit to your potential, your capacity, your creativity.”