Eddie Clayton is a Naledi Winning Musical Director, Conductor, Arranger/Composer and educator.

This year he has been involved with the programme “A Night with the Stars” which will be on at The Joburg Theatre on Saturday 27 june at 7:30pm and Sunday 28 june at 3pm – starring Yvonne Chaka Chaka alongside the Johannesburg Youth Orchestra.

We get to know this phenomenal talent and learn more about this incredible programme.

Why did you choose the French horn as your instrument of choice?


“Musicians usually say that the instrument chooses them. This is very much what happened to me. When Eddie Clayton - MD of JYOI was younger I played pretty much every instrument there was. I started my career with the youth orchestra as the Trombone player. I didn’t enjoy it and so moved over to the trumpet. During school and my career in the military I played the trumpet. Then I found there was a need for a Horn player in the band. I learned this instrument by default and then it became my instrument of choice. Just because I saw the need for more horn players.”

So what is it about the Horn?


“One of the biggest factors is that it is not a common instrument, so there is always a need for horn players. It was a smart career move that I ever made to start playing the Horn. I remember I had two gigs already, after only month of playing the Horn. For every 20 Trumpet players, there is 1 horn player.”

What has been a highlight for you in your career?


“That’s a tough question. I must say I have been very blessed. I can’t single out one specific highlight. Touring with Josh Groban was phenomenal, conducting Die Skepping, which is an Oratorium created by Janine Neethling and Deon Opperman. I conducted it, directed it, and did some of the orchestrations for it. The South African Tattoo has been a highlight over the years. Skouspel, which is one of the biggest gigs I ‘ve ever done. I have just been very blessed with the wonderful work that I have had; so there have been numerous highlights. Every gig that I do is a highlight for me. I drive people nuts as I always say that every gig is the best gig I have ever done; I get so excited with every gig. ”

What do you prefer; playing in an orchestra or conducting?


“With out a doubt, the conducting. I enjoy the playing but the conducting is in a different league. It is where I get to determine how the music sounds within reason. “

So what does it take to be a conductor then, would you have to know how to play an instrument to be a successful conductor?


“Preferably yes. There are a lot of theories surrounding conducting, as conducting is a bit of a mystery. You can teach someone conducting and send them to the best teachers in the world for years, but if that person is not a natural conductor, that person is never going to really be a conductor. Conducting is very much a natural inkling that one has towards it. It can be taught within reason. Talent is part of it, but conducting is also psychology as far as I am concerned. The audience sees the tip of the ice-berg when you see a final product. Rehearsal techniques, even talking about wagging your arms, dealing with musicians, how to treat them, how to get things out of them, are all factors; 80% psychology, 2% conducting and the rest is musicality.”

You have done all genres of music; classical, musical theatre, which is your best genre?


“I love all of it but I must say that I adore musical theatre. You are thrown into a pit for three months with the same people and you get to replicate the same music for three months. Live theatre is unexplainable. “

Tell me about ‘A night with the Stars”?


“We started this initiative last year with Susan Rendell who is the CEO of the Johannesburg Youth Orchestra. This is similar to Starlight Classics with Richard Cock. Our focus is on the youth rather. It is something we would like to see happening for the next 20 years and for it to become a household name. Last year was our first show and we had Elvis Blue amongst others to perform with us. It was such incredible exposure for the children and special for Elvis to be a part of this initiative.”

What are your other aims for this project, in terms of youth development?


“For us it is all about the kids. Not for a moment is it about us. It is about exposing these kids to this type of level of a show and empowering them. It is what the company is about. Our greatest priority is to get them out when they are at a high level of performance, and we aim to source work for them and help find them employment opportunities. We sent five of our kids to Kwa-Zulu Natal to audition for the KZN Philharmonic Orchestra, which is at this stage one of the best orchestras in the country and those five were accepted. They are earning salaries and working. “

Do you feel that there is a lack of understanding for classical music, especially amongst the youth?


“Yes and no. Again it comes back to exposure. I performed with a professional orchestra for La Traviata at Wits a few weeks ago and Gauteng Opera always make a point of inviting schools to come watch their shows. There were a number of schools there and they met the stars and saw that these Opera and classical performers are actually quite cool and approachable. It comes down to exposure. So it is the same with our kids. We play songs from Star Wars, Yvonne Chaka Chaka, Pirates of the Carribean, the classics… it is about educating these kids. Classical music is not as bad as one thinks.“

“At the JYO, music is apart of it. We take these kids literally out of the townships, we shuttle them into the company and provide them with numerous skills. We provide them with instruments, but make them pay a nominal rental fee, which is very cheap, as the point is to show these kids that they are not getting these instruments for free and so need to look after them and if they break them, they have to pay for them. We have had two incidents where we have had to suspend some children from the orchestra. Apart from the music, we teach them life skills and responsibility. They have this expensive instrument and have to look after it. This is one example of those lessons.”

Another bonus is that Eddie and Annemarie (one of the performers) have composed a song called ‘Colour Blind’, which celebrates 21 years of democracy and this song will be premiering on the night of ‘Night with the Stars’.

 For more details of ‘A Night with the Stars” – click on link: