Sophia fostering young talent

Artscape CEO Marlene le Roux and Sophia Foster.

Local jazz legend Sophia Foster has taken on the role of mentor as she teaches young talent the skills she’s learned during 50 years of show business.

Three years ago, Sophia started the Fostering Foundation “to polish up rough diamonds”.

The non-profit teaches young people aged 12 to 25 singing, dancing, stage presence, voice projection, microphone control, choreography and more.

It was a pipe dream of Sophia’s for many years, but she put it on hold because she wanted the “perfect space”.

But one day she walked into her Milnerton home’s double garage and decided it was as good a place as any to make magic happen.

So she cleared out the clutter, put in some mirrors and found someone to sponsor a sound system with microphones.

Now the garage has taken on a life of its own. So much so, she says, that her students don’t want to go home.

“I like to think of it as my spiritual place. It’s taken on a life of its own,” she says.

Sophia found that teaching music involves a whole lot more than just getting someone to belt out a tune.

“Confidence is the first thing I teach them,” she explains.

“Everything else follows this.

“To me, music is healing. I stand right in front of these kids, and I ask them to perform for me, and I always ask them, ‘What is your truth?’”.

She has 13 students from across the city, including Table View, Lavender Hill, Retreat, Khayelitsha, Steenberg, Langa and Bo-Kaap.

Describing herself as “raw talent” she understands how to deal with her students because she was once in their shoes.

“I’ve seen many who have been suppressed in their homes due to religious reasons or other reasons. What I’m trying to do is open doors and allow them the space to freely express their creativity.”

This weekend past, the Fostering Foundation showed off the talent of all 13 students in Fostering Fever , at the Artscape Arena, and Sophia joined them on stage to perform some of the songs.

The show included short biographical clips about the performers and some shared harrowing stories of living in gang-ridden areas. “Sometimes I would get texts from kids telling me they won’t make it to a session because the shooting is so bad they can’t leave their front door,” says Sophia.

“But despite their situations when these kids start singing and dancing they have a smile on their face.

“They forget about their troubles and they enjoy themselves. To me, that is worth more than being dressed up in a sequinned gown on stage.”

After the show Sophia called Artscape CEO Marlene le Roux on stage to thank her for supporting the Fostering Foundation, but the theatre boss said it was Sophia who deserved all the credit for keeping Nelson Mandela’s legacy alive.

“It’s all about you who said, “Forget about the famous Sophia. I have a God-given talent that I want to share and tonight we have experienced, not just talent. We have experienced a gift from above.”

Email to find out more about the foundation or find them on Facebook or Twitter @fosteringfoundation.