To South Africa I Go, or The Tale of a Lost Shirt

A Lost Shirt

Hello, my name is Jonathan Simmons. I am a cellist currently in school full time working on my Doctorate of Musical Arts, and this summer I head out of the country for the first time to attend the Stellenbosch International Chamber Music Festival (SICMF) June 30 – July 9, 2023 in Stellenbosch, South Africa. How did I come to choose to attend the festival or even find out about it? The answer has to do with a lost shirt.

South Africa Trip Cornel

Cornèl, right, and me, left (and my shirt!)

Last semester, I met Cornèl, an exchange student from South Africa, at school. He is a great pianist, cellist, and composer. We became friends, and I even premiered one of his compositions. I lent him a dress shirt he could wear for concerts throughout the semester, but come summer, he returned to South Africa and with him went my shirt! He sent me a text to say he still had my shirt, and it became a running joke that I would need to schedule a trip to South Africa to get it back.

I kept the possibility of a trip to SA in the back of my mind, but I didn’t think it would be feasible to visit  just for pleasure. Then Cornèl mentioned the chamber music festival, and that got me thinking…


Why Now?

As I looked into the SICMF, it looked amazing. In addition to chamber music, there are great faculty members such as cellists Peter Martens and Boris Andrianov and a full orchestral experience playing alongside them. The director, Peter Martens is a fantastic cellist, and other distinguished faculty come from far and wide. I noticed that the age limit for the festival is 28 years old. This summer I will be 28, so that means this year would be my last year to be within the age limit to participate. This summer will be the last possible year for me to attend the festival.

With such a short time to arrange the details, I’ve begun to raise money to attend the festival. I will be hosting fundraising concerts in several cities including Greenville, SC, Greensboro, NC, and Clinton, SC. If you are in one of those cities, I would love to see you at one of the concerts! More details are forthcoming. Also, if you are in the southeast and would be interested in hosting a concert, please contact me, and let’s talk about that.



In addition to the cost of the festival itself, there are other costs associated with getting there. The largest cost is plane tickets, yes plural. Many people do not know that cellos cannot be checked baggage, or else bad things could happen.

A cello destroyed while a checked baggage item.

Other expenses include international health insurance, passport, a suitcase fit for international travel, and other unexpected expenses (there are sure to be some!). I anticipate the total cost of the trip being around $5,000.


About the Festival

About an hour away from Cape Town, the festival is hosted by Stellenbosch University. The festival is designed

to promote and pro-actively develop a deep love of classical music, to help young music talent grow to full potential and to create opportunities for young musicians to further their music studies.

The festival achieves this by:

Creating opportunities for interaction between a broad and diverse spectrum of musicians who participate in a variety of chamber music groups as well as in the festival orchestras.
An extensive community development and partnership programme that exposes talented young musicians and learners from music development programmes to tuition, coaching and personal mentoring from internationally renowned musicians and performers.
Providing budding young musicians with a performing platform that showcases this young talent.


About South Africa

Yes, there are some great safari spots nearby, and I’m hopeful there will be time to see the great wildlife. Nearby  familiar cities are Cape Town and the Cape of Good Hope. There are rolling electrical blackouts throughout the day, so I will need to bring a charger for any electronics that I bring.


Benefits of the Trip

The musical education available is a primary motivation for my trip to Stellenbosch, but American also has wonderful summer music festivals. Why do I want to go overseas? Great question. I’m glad you asked!

One of my career goals is to teach cello at the college level. Many schools require or give preference to candidates with international musical experience. This trip will be my first time traveling internationally, and because SICMF is a well-regarded music festival, the experience also would give me an edge as I begin to apply for jobs. Oh, and my shirt is there!


Get involved

If you would like to keep up to date, sign up for email updates. If you are inclined, check out my GoFundMe to help with expenses. Thank you, and feel free to contact me with any questions.