When I was in primary school I was a member of the local Boy Scout's movement and my Scout Master had put together a show featuring much of the music of Steven Foster and Al Jolson. I was the pianist in the band and we did several shows to raise funds for our troop. Then in high school, I was invited to join a band comprising trumpet, bass, piano and drums, and we rehearsed original compositions (mainly penned by the leader, Clive Fox) purely for the fun of it. We even got to do a few gigs at some of the local schools including my first taste of a Jewish wedding and the Israeli national anthem Hatikvah which I was to play many times in my subsequent career!
In my first year at university I became aware of a jazz club that was open on Sunday nights on the top floor of an old brewery and I wasted no time in visiting. It was a night that the great Johnny Fourie had been booked to perform, having just arrived back from his trip to New York. I had no fear in approaching him and he allowed me to sit in along with Charlie Sayers on trumpet and Alan Hayes on drums. What an experience this was!
I then followed the trail of the ever-opening and -closing jazz clubs around Pretoria and Johannesburg, soon forming a close relationship with Charlie, and before I could catch my breath I was appearing with him and Ricky Pelling (on tenor sax) at the Port Elizabeth jazz festival (two successive years), SABC radio, and various jazz gigs. These "elders" gave me space to play and rapidly brought me up to speed.
The next thing I knew, I was being asked to play for various bands at real paying gigs (dances, weddings, etc.) and discovered a new challenge - learning the repertoire, putting my reading skills to the test and generally coming to terms with the dreaded art vs. commerciality debate. At least I earned some decent money whilst a student!