Field Band Foundation

Youth Development through Music & Dance

Category: Uncategorized (page 1 of 6)

The Field Band Foundation 20th birthday

The Field Band Foundation celebrated its 20th birthday with a formal dinner on Thursday 26th October 2017. Held at the Gordon Institute of Business Science, the gathering had FBF director Nonceba Lushaba as MC, and brought together key partners of the FBF’s work, Foundation directors, senior management, and representatives of FBF operations.

Keynote speaker was Johannesburg executive mayor Herman Mashaba, who described his involvement with the Foundation – from being a Patron through to leading the company as its chairman until his retirement in early 2016. Cllr Mashaba encouraged the audience to continue to expand the reach of the Foundation’s work, and pledged his own family’s continual support.

Mr Ronnie Lubner, who was instrumental in founding the FBF in 1997, flew in from London for the happy occasion, at which his generous sponsorship of a new FBF educational initiative, the Ronnie and Rhona Lubner Leadership Programme, was announced.

Other key FBF partners celebrating the FBF’s milestone birthday included Black Like Me, FK Norway, Investec, Jasper Power Company, Norwegian Band Federation, Norwegian Embassy, Ogilvy & Mather, PG Group, and Tshikululu Social Investments (Anglo American Chairman’s Fund, De Beers Fund, Scatec Solar).

In his address, FBF chairman Brian Gibson quoted from the Foundation’s founding strategy of November 1997:

“Although music and movement play an important part in Field Bands, it is not the main priority. Apart from providing a forum for fun and entertainment, Field Bands are designed to teach young people important lessons of life such as:

  • The need to co-operate with and serve others
  • The importance of self-worth, punctuality and responsibility; and
  • The thrill of belonging. Widespread recruitment and easy entry to Field Bands will ensure that the activity is not restricted to the ‘talented few”. Youngsters who need it most will be drawn into the process. In particular, those who come from disadvantaged circumstances will be given a sense of purpose and achievement.”

These guiding principles, he said, “continue to inform our work 20 years later. They ensure that our interventions with young people contribute to a chain of events that produce measurable impacts”.

CEO Nicky du Plessis described the FBF’s institutional strengthening through its Fit-for-Purpose (F4P) programme:

“During 2017, the F4P journey has seen major change to the Foundation’s management-governance operational system and mandates, and a focus on the development and rollout of deep but considered revision and updates to especially:

  • Processes to simplify and make “F4P” the Foundation’s educational offerings in a consolidation of training that is relevant to today’s young SA
  • Updating Monitoring and Evaluation systems in alignment with an improved Theory of Change that appropriately articulates our psycho-social developmental model for our work
  • Improved capacitation of the Foundation’s national and central functions and the staffing thereof
  • Reworking funding models and sustainability strategies long-term; and
  • Professionalisation of staff training in core management functions, from project management, to operational leadership, to monitoring and evaluation, to making practically real – at every level and type of Field Band activity – a F4P Theory of Change”.

The evening began with a special performance of the national champions Investec Alexandra Field band, and highlights included tributes paid to founders and key supporters by Brian Gibson, along with special recognition of the work and dedication over many year of Herman Mashaba and Brian and Lorraine Gibson; and a fond farewell to Regional Operations Manager Moira Thomas, who is moving to Pretoria after 17 years in the Field Band Foundation.

“du Plessis spoke of her confidence that “the immediate and long-term effects of the Field Band Foundation’s F4P journey can carry the organisation to being best-in-class in its type of work in profound ways”.


A steady ship

The Foundation maintains robust financial controls, along with a vigorous business development programme to reinforce its careful funding-partner relations. In 2016, the FBF maintained its unbroken record of unqualified annual audits – with PricewaterhouseCoopers the external auditor.

The Foundation remained financially sound, receiving received approximately R23.5 million in revenue and other income, R3.5 million of which was the proceeds of a sale of shares.

Total expenditure was R21.3 million, resulting in an operating profit of R2.3 million. This was a strong operating profit performance compared to the R500 000 loss in 2015.

The balance sheet remains strong, with equity being R14.2 million, and cash being at R9.2 million compared to R3.3 million in 2015.

The Foundation’s full audited financial statements are reproduced in the 2016/2017 Report to Society, which can be downloaded on the website’s Home page at


20 years – Fit for Purpose (F4P)

This year sees the Field Band Foundation’s 20th anniversary, celebrating the Foundation’s highly positive impact and far developmental reach, while highlighting our readiness for the next era.

This readiness is called the FBF Fit for Purpose (F4P) journey. It uses lessons learned over two decades that allow the Foundation to make a step-change in priorities and operations for greater developmental effect, and deeper organisational sustainability.

We will share developmental learnings for others to benefit, and we celebrate the Foundation being a unique joint effort of partners across the South African private and public sectors, and abroad.

The Foundation’s F4P year is carried through training programme in themes of Belonging, Commitment, Joy, and Opportunity.

 Key company facts

  • The Field Band Foundation (FBF) (, a non-profit company, was established in 1997 to bring the global performance band concept to disadvantaged areas of South Africa and to develop a uniquely indigenous variant of this performance type.
  • The Foundation is 20 years-old; the head office is in Rivonia, Johannesburg. Directors are Brian Gibson (chairman), Nicky du Plessis (CEO), Frans Baleni, Thando Buthelezi, Justice Neels Claassen, Willie Erasmus, Karen Krakowitzer, Obakeng Lekabe, George Lindeque, Nonceba Lushaba, Simon Mantell, Joe Matsau, Simon Skafu and Gabu Tugwana.
  • Through FBF activities, young people are taught such lifeskills as commitment, competitiveness, teamwork, discipline and timekeeping. The advantages of heightened self-esteem and associated self-confidence are inculcated.
  • The Foundation has 44 Field Bands, each able to accommodate 140 members, aged seven to 21 years, in seven provinces.
  • Our annual operating cost is approximately R22 million.
  • Band membership is free, but carries strictly enforced responsibilities.
  • While teaching music, movement and dance is the core of the Foundation’s activities, band members also receive:
    • HIV and Aids peer education
    • General education in social development
    • Specific lifeskills training.
  • Interaction between children from different racial, linguistic and cultural groups, and cross-regionally, happens through regional and national competitions, and through advanced training workshops.
  • The Foundation, in collaboration with counterparts in Norway and the US, runs an exchange programme for deserving students. Various tertiary bursaries are also offered to deserving students.   The Foundation also strives to prepare its members for the world of work, and employment is also offered within the Foundation when possible.
  • The Foundation is primarily funded through South African corporate support, as well as from the public sector (Department of Arts & Culture), and through international support from longstanding partners in Europe and the US.

A vibrant society (CEO Report – 2016/2017 Report to Society)

The Field Band Foundation’s 20th year is a good occasion for us to take stock of what has been achieved in becoming one of SA’s only national youth development organisations using an arts and culture basis.

The two decades since our founding in 1997 has seen 50 000 young people pass through our programmes in uniquely African Field Bands that have been the conduit for lifeskills and performance arts training of various sorts.

It is also a time to reflect on how we should update our offering so that the Foundation’s work remains relevant to changing circumstances, where the median age in our country is 25 years. This is especially important because young people today face challenges that are particular to their generation – in particular, scarce job opportunities with many associated social ills.

Understanding what we do well, what we can improve on, what we should stop doing, and what we should do more of is all part of what we call our Fit for Purpose (F4P) journey.

This process has been helped by insights gained from an extensive evaluation undertaken by Tshikululu Social Investments, on behalf of De Beers, of the impact that the Field Band Foundation has had on the lives of past beneficiaries from our work in Kimberley, Parys and Musina.

Done over a few months in 2016, this comprehensive evaluation used key informant interviews, focus groups, telephonic interviews, and surveys. Interviewees gave the Foundation an average seven-out-of-ten rating for having a positive effect on their lives, noting these benefits to their lives:

  • Improved confidence
  • Improved interpersonal skills
  • Improved dancing and musical skills
  • Finding employment opportunities
  • Improved socialisation
  • Exposure to travel opportunities
  • Social acceptance of sexual orientation; and
  • Community recognition.

The evaluation report notes: “The FBF was also able to keep beneficiaries focussed, and to a large extent kept them away from the social problems facing their communities. There were instances where they reported staying away from criminal or delinquent behaviour, staying committed to finishing school (which is not always something some community members aspire to), finding employment and staying away from falling pregnant during their teenage years. Over and beyond this, the organisation has been very inclusive in terms of valuing diversity in the form of race, gender, language, sexual orientation, age and integrating people with disabilities into the programme model”.

These results are heartening. Our duty now is to ensure that we continue to realise these results.

To that end, the Foundation has developed its Youth Development Model (see next page), a theory of change that is based on practical outputs of our work – leading through short, medium and long-term results to the goal of “empowered and healthy young people able to contribute to a vibrant society”.

First off in the Fit for Purpose journey is to assess how the Foundation runs itself, and here we benefit from an evaluation undertaken on Investec’s behalf by GrowthMap. This gave the Foundation the highest possible sustainability rating, which assessment included a review of governance, internal management systems and financial stability.

This gave us the lead into enhancing further the capacitation of the company’s head office, the pivot on which our 44 Field Bands in 22 operations, across 7 provinces, rest. During the period under review, this included strengthening our reporting functions; the introduction of updated project monitoring and evaluation indicators and measurement tools; creation of a new business development post; a strategy to deepen our partnership with key donors; and the revision and integration of our various educational curricula.

The Foundation’s music and lifeskills educational programmes are delivered to all members at band rehearsals, and in bespoke workshops for the Foundation’s 157 full- and part-time staff. These are designed by the Field Band Education team, supported by the PULSE programme that sees four Norwegian exchange students join our staff for one-year tours of duty, and through specialists consulting to us. A current priority is to meld these different inputs into a seamless programme that is carried through all operations, updated to make our teaching relevant to young people who need to be “work ready” in how they approach their life paths.

A pilot project in our Springs operation has been that of Church and Business Against Aids (Chabahiva), which includes extra development and training of the band staff in social development and Aids-related training. This is now being extended to the Hammanskraal operation and into a Wellness in the Workplace programme for Head Office.

During this year we also successfully concluded a Pepfar US Community Grant programme that provided HIV training for all Project Officers to upskill them in their ongoing education of their Field Band members.

In three areas, specialised parenting workshops were also provided to support parents in building healthy communication and relationships with their children, particularly around issues concerning health. The Foundation is pleased to have been invited by Pepfar to re-apply for support in this endeavour.

In “Project Partner”, the Foundation is working with key supporters to deepen the relationships between them and our Field Bands in practical collaborations that go beyond funding to the better alignment of our work with the partners’ local social investment imperatives. In this, each party gains from the insights and on-the-ground actions of the other, to greater community development benefit. This work will be significantly extended in the next year.

The Foundation’s longstanding partnership with the Department of Arts & Culture allows Field Bands to gather in large-scale public performance events, with 2016 seeing national championships held in Soweto in February, and a national youth celebration involving 13 Field Bands at the Fezile Dabi Stadium in Tumahole, Parys, in October. A National Field Band Celebration is being held in Alexandra in October 2017, with simultaneous community events to mark our 20th birthday taking place in 10 other localities across SA.

In all the aspects of our comprehensive F4P approach to making “Music for Life”, we are indebted to the involved oversight that we enjoy from our Board of Directors under the leadership of chairman Brian Gibson, our partners local and foreign, head office and operational staff members, and to our thousands of Field Band members across South Africa.

Theirs is a combined effort of meaningful work with positive outcomes, and it is performed with joy. Truly, they are contributing to a vibrant society, and the Field Band Foundation salutes them all.

 Nicolette (Nicky) du Plessis

Facing True North (Chairman’s Statement – Report to Society 2016/2017)

In this our 20th anniversary year, the Field Band Foundation celebrates both its achievements and continued relevance while confronting the ongoing challenges of sustainability in an unforgiving environment.

We marvel at the resilience of an organisation born in 1997 as the PG Group’s “gift to the nation” in celebration of the company’s Centenary.

We pay tribute to the insight and wisdom of our founding fathers who in the early years of our fledgling democracy recognised the need to give young people hope and opportunity.

Having had the extraordinary privilege of serving the Foundation since its beginning, I am reminded that in the founding strategy document (November 1997) the board agreed that:

“Although music and movement play an important part in Field Bands, it is not the main priority. Apart from providing a forum for fun and entertainment, Field Bands are designed to teach young people important lessons of life such as:

  • The need to co-operate with and serve others;
  • The important of self-worth, punctuality and responsibility; and
  • The thrill of belonging.

Widespread recruitment and easy entry to Field Bands ensures that the activity is not restricted to the ‘talented few”, but that youngsters who need it most are drawn into the process. In particular, those who come from disadvantaged circumstances will be given a sense of purpose and achievement.”

These guiding principles, suitably adjusted to our evolving developmental model, continue to inform our work 20 years later.

We salute all who have contributed to the sustainability of this wonderful organisation that has been:

  • Directed, governed and served by dozens of volunteers from all walks of life
  • Staffed by hundreds of employees for whom work is a vocation
  • Owned by many thousands of members who have demonstrated through their conduct and achievements that the guiding compass of the Foundation has never wavered
  • Financed by compassionate and principled funders (corporate & individual from the private & public sectors, both local and international) who have found comfort in the fiduciary accountability of the Foundation and measured meaningful returns in their investment
  • Supported “in kind” by endless numbers of service providers who give new meaning to the concept of social partnerships
  • Endorsed by leaders from all sectors of society, none more important that President Nelson Mandela who gave the foundation his personal stamp of approval in 1997, and lived long enough to actively celebrate its achievements.

Our realistic view of future challenges is forged from the heat of past experiences: the frisson of anxiety when cash was tight and salaries due; the “going concern” debates; the searing disappointment when our sunny confidence in human nature was betrayed, and the deep sadness when we took leave of champions like Retha Cilliers and Bertie Lubner.

Our confident optimism is informed by the visible achievements of many thousands of Field Band members who continue to make their mark in society, by the unswerving loyalty and support of so many partners, and by the passion of our management team and staff.

As we celebrate two decades of service and look to the future, we recognise that remaining “Fit for Purpose” is tight governance and accountability on a continuous loop.

Two major performance assessments were conducted on behalf of funders during 2017. Notwithstanding the excellent outcomes, they identified numerous areas of potential improvement in terms of operational effectiveness and efficiency.

They also nurtured the evolving realisation that the Field Band funding model that has served us so well (bands being funded by donors, with a percentage covering had office expenses) must be overhauled. Increasingly, our funders and partners will be invited to support cross-cutting programmes that deliver measurable results across the width and breadth of the organisation.

The Foundation’s management team, which demonstrates the highest standards of financial compliance, business leadership and strategic intellect, recently proposed a new Business Development and Resource Optimisation Strategy to the board, which will provide the foundation for a further two decades of sustainability and growth.

As we adapt to new era of ROI-based corporate social investing, the Foundation’s enhanced Measuring & Evaluation capability will demonstrate conclusively that our developmental model delivers true value based on true values that always face True North.

Lest we become over enthusiastic during this celebratory year, Confucius reminds us that “humility is the solid foundation of all virtues”.

In all humility, we invite our stakeholders to help us celebrate our achievements while demanding that we remain “Fit for Purpose” in the decades ahead.

Brian Gibson

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.

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