Field Band Foundation

Youth Development through Music & Dance

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The Field Band Foundation operates over 40 bands consisting of more than 6 000 members in 22 localities across South Africa. Each field band has an average of two rehearsals a week and 15 public performances a year. Click to find a Field Band near you:
You can also book a Field Band performance by contacting Sello Ramosepele on

Field Band Celebrates Mandela Day

FBF National Workshop July 2017 (Day1)

TRIBUTE: Jennifer Ward Oppenheimer (1967 – 2017)

Jennifer Oppenheimer – painting by Frances Kendall

Having now had time to reflect on her magnificent contribution to the Field Band Foundation (FBF), I would like to take a moment to mark the untimely death of Jennifer Oppenheimer.

Jennifer, who passed away peacefully on 16 May after a short battle with cancer, played an important part in helping the Field Band Foundation to become a youth development programme of national reach and relevance. At the time of her death at the young age of 50 she was surrounded by her husband Jonathan and their children Samuel‚ Isabel and Nathaniel.

On being told of Jennifer’s passing that week, the FBF’s Board of Directors stood in silent honour of her life; reflecting on its positive influence on so many young South Africans.

In his tribute our chairman, Brian Gibson, noted that the funding support from Jonathan and Jennifer Oppenheimer’s Isibindi Trust was but one among many significant contributions.

Jennifer’s guiding role helped to ramp up the Field Band Foundation from smallish beginnings in 1997 to one with a four-province footprint within 10 years, and then to national reach. This was especially so in her chairmanship of the De Beers Fund from 2002 to 2006, when De Beers moved from being a significant FBF sponsor, to becoming the Foundation’s foremost CSI funder, managed through Tshikululu Social Investments.

This is a partnership that the De Beers Group of Companies carries splendidly and with consistent engagement, an ever-closer collaboration that funds six full operations of 12 Field Bands at Blouberg, Kimberley, Kroonstad, Musina, Parys, and Viljoenskroon. It is accompanied with support by that company for our Johannesburg head office, professional De Beers Fund evaluations of our work on-the-ground, engagement with our management direction, the hosting of FBF guests at national events, and in communications support through De Beers’ corporate and public affairs unit.

That primary support is extended further, with funding for our inclusive Free State operations from the De Beers empowerment partner’s CSI trusts (Ponahalo De Beers), and in their parent company’s Anglo American Chairman’s Fund – the latter partnering the FBF in the six Field Bands at Kuruman, Thabazimbi, and Witbank. Along the way, these supporters, with the addition of Jonathan and Jennifer Oppenheimer’s family trust, have backed our work in Cullinan, Daniëlskuil, and Grahamstown. It is a remarkable journey of commitment, something that is so important for getting the most positive social returns, and for anchoring that for future generations.

Shying from any glory, Jennifer said in 2006 that the FBF deserved “most of the credit” for successes because of our “good work, unflagging efforts and indomitable spirit”. Yet much of what has been built comes off multiple partnerships that she heralded. Included are positive transformations of many young lives, included direct support over many years from Jonathan and Jennifer to provide air tickets for the FBF to annually send candidates to the intensive training in America’s outstanding Pioneer Drum & Bugle Corps. Our 2017 team left for Wisconsin this month.

Marking the Foundation’s 10th anniversary a decade ago, our then-chairman (now Johannesburg’s executive mayor), Herman Mashaba, publicly noted Jennifer’s critical role, but little could we know how it would endure and deepen.

In our 20th year, the FBF marks looks back on almost 50 000 members having passed through it, three-quarters of them for a minimum of three years each. Horizons of life’s opportunity have expanded beyond measure, in ways of inter-generational benefit.

They, with the thousands of today’s FBF, and those to yet come, are a significant cohort of a confident, young South Africa. This is just some of a positive dynamic owing much to the vision of a very special lady.

May it always bring a measure of solace to Jonathan, to their children, and to the broader Oppenheimer and Ward families.

Rest in Peace, dear Jennifer.

–          Nicolette du Plessis; Chief Executive Officer, Field Band Foundation NPC

(The accompanying picture of Jennifer Oppenheimer is reproduced with acknowledgement to its painter, Frances Kendall.)

“Passion is everything, Skills can be taught. But what drives an individual is his will to succeed.” – Bongani Goliath

My first involvement in the programme started when I was only 11 years old. At the time I was just a young school boy from the township, highly passionate about bands and drum majorettes but only exposed to soccer and marimba groups. A friend of mine introduced me to the Field Band, where I started off and travelled the world as a drummer. I then became a tutor and advanced to the Soweto Band Coordinator in the year 2012. I became involved in the band as a drummer to pursue my passion in music and grew further to help the youth pursue their passion in music through the Field Band.

I was also fortunate enough to have toured with the band to Belgium, Amsterdam and Norway in 2008 and 2009. I toured both because of the Field Band national tour as well as pursuing my studies in music and leadership. Winning the national Field Band championships in 2011 and completing my Music Teaching Diploma were big highlights as well.

I am currently studying and Programme Managing  the Soweto Band. I also aim to continue to enrich the lives of the youth in my community through the skills I have acquired in the Field Band. I am also furthering my studies in Teaching Methodology, Music Technology, Music Theory and Music Business.

FBF stars capped at NW University


On Wednesday 1 March 2017, five Field Band Foundation stars graduated with Diplomas in Music from the University of North West, Potchefstroom.

In 2014 Field Band Foundation members Manqoba Mabena, Mashadi Mokoena, Phelelani  Mthatyane, Tshiamo Oor and Daniel Sithole were accepted at the university to read the three-year diplomas. Throughout, these young South Africans have proved committed and hard-working – a credit to themselves and to their Foundation.

Already at their end-first-year university concert, staff and fellow students were deeply impressed at their levels of performance, both in solo, and when involving fellow brass-playing students.

Our five FBF stars have returned to our operations – sharing their expertise with fellow members and tutors.

FBF CEO Nicky du Plessis expressed her delight and pride in these outstanding Field Banders as “Wonderful examples of the passion of our Foundation Family across the country. We congratulate them, and we know that they will enjoy rewarding careers and musical performance excellence through their lives”.


Our Woman Crush Wednesday #WCW goes Mashadi Precious Mokoena


Mashadi Precious Mokoena

Our Woman crush Wednesday #WCW  goes to Mashadi  Precious Mokoena – Graduated at the University of North West this year. She obtained a Diploma with distinctions in Music.

Mashadi was only 12 years when she joined the Field Band in 2004 in Cullinan outside Pretoria.  She graduated from the Field Band Academy in 2011 and received a certificate for both theory and practical through the royal school of music.

In 2012 she was selected for the USA exchange programme with the Pioneer Drum & Bugle Corp for 3 months (May-August)

Baleni and Tugwana aboard



Former National Union of Mineworkers head Frans Baleni and current City of Johannesburg spokesman Gabu Tugwana have been elected to the Field Band Foundation’s (FBF) Board of Directors.

Baleni, who was NUM General Secretary from 2006 to 2015, is also deputy chairman of the Development Bank of Southern Africa, a member of the Council of the University of Johannesburg, and a director of Petro SA, among others. His long career in mining saw his involvement in SA’s epoch-making Codesa negotiations and in social citizenship fora, including as chairman until recently of the JB Marks Bursary Trust Fund, and in the corporate sustainability work of the Institute of Directors.

Gabu Tugwana was appointed spokesman to Johannesburg’s Executive Mayor (and former FBF chairman), Cllr Herman Mashaba, in October last year. He is a former journalist at various publications including the Rand Daily Mail; The World and Weekend World; and the community-based, nationally distributed New Nation. He also edited the New Nation with the late Zwelakhe Sisulu. He has been working for the City for 13 years in the Group Communication Department.

Welcoming the Foundation’s new directors, FBF chairman Brian Gibson said that Baleni and Tugwana bring vast experience and wisdom to the leadership of the Foundation. “Gabu returns to the board after a long break and Frans is fast making an impact. Both are encouraged by their colleagues to continue with the activism that contributed to the democratic transformation that our young band members enjoy today. Their sacrifices and public spiritedness stand as a fine example to us all.”

The Foundation is governed by a board of directors consisting of private sector leadership of the highest calibre, maintaining robust financial controls and governance procedures across the company. It is unusual in attracting support from across industry sectors, locally and internationally, from public and private sectors.

The FBF improves the quality of life of disadvantaged young people and gives them an opportunity to build a better future. Through music and movement, members take part in positive, joyful and affirming activities that teach them lifeskills and that develop their imagination, team spirit and self-discipline.

Fit for Purpose year kicks off with leader training

A consolidated curriculum of training in lifeskills, music, choreography, performance movement, and project management that is rolling through Field Band operations this 20th year, complemented by intensive training of leaders and tutors from all operations in early-2017.

The first of the latter, a three-day gathering of individual Field band leaders (Programme Officers) was held in January at the Tshikululu Social Investments training facilities in Johannesburg, managed by FBF head office staff and by external trainers. Modules included team management, inter-personal communication skills, emotional intelligence, company logistical requirements, partner reporting, 2017 communication themes.

Then, special training in the Free State’s Parys was given in January to Field Band Peer Educators from different operations, focussing on gender equality and social inclusion.

These were followed in February with a week-long workshop, also in Parys, Free State, for 50 Field band tutors from across SA, run by teams from Field Band Education and from the Foundation’s PULSE initiative. This gave training in leadership, teaching techniques, and in lifeskills, along with arts training. The tutor workshop closed with a parade through the Tumahole township, and the staging of a community concert.

Flying the flag, sharing lessons in Norway


CEO Nicky du Plessis headed north this month to visit long-term FBF project partner, the Norwegian Band Federation (NMF).  The NMF and FBF have started the first year of the second round of funding from FK Norway for the PULSE Project and this visit enables partner discussions and meetings with stakeholders to take place.

PULSE allows the broader community development benefits of music to be more clearly identifiable to participants, helping them to develop relevant ways of operating at band level to greatest positive developmental effect in all facets of their lives.

PULSE uses strong elements of knowledge-sharing in its approach. Participants from South Africa and Norway on the programme learn about and teach in each other’s communities, both benefitting from their own unique societal experiences in challenges of diversity, cross-cultural integration, working with disability, and related issues of social inclusion. The practical benefits of these learnings are taken in structured training to communities where Field Bands operate.

Du Plessis will spend time with the four young FBF members currently flying South Africa’s flag in Norway as they engage with school bands in Bergen and Oslo: Thulani Dupa, Sizwe Nkosi, Sihle Mabena and Masibulele Langa.  These PULSE South participants use FBF methods and repertoire in their teaching and performing, which have been well received by all.

Perhaps the fact that they are also starting to teach in Norwegian (having been hard at work in language classes since they arrived in September 2016) also contributes to their success. Dupa says, “We realise that the kids relate differently, even if we have just a few words, and we learn with every lesson too”.

We are proud of this team who have navigated a long cold winter full of snow and ice to learn new skills and broaden their experiences of using music to bring young people together.  In collaboration with NMF staff, our young South African leaders will facilitate a special holiday programme for over 200 young musicians, called VinterPULSE!

Lifeskills, games, visual arts and musical performance management will be taught for a week, culminating in a concert that du Plessis will attend.  This is the second year that this holiday programme has been held and it is a significant part of the outreach and inclusion work being done by the NMF.

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