Sjoerd and Anna-Marie Alkema, owners of Allmusic, are grateful to be involved in the music industry. Their lifelong participation in music performance, conducting, teaching, the writing of textbooks, and general music education contributed to a passion and commitment for good business practices.
Shortly after their marriage, Sjoerd received two bursaries to study abroad. His enriching studies in Salzburg, where he obtained a Degree in Conducting, had a profound influence on his professional career. During their Windhoek years, they played a major role in organizing the Fifth Philip McLachlan Choral Workshop in 1989, the first and largest international choral event in Southern Africa. Over 500 participants received choral training from international clinicians from Germany, Sweden, Canada, Lesotho and South Africa.
During the OBE years, Anna-Marie wrote learning support material for Music implicit in Arts and Culture from grades 1 to 12, and, when she was approached by National Department of Education, utilized her expertise in a committee of four to develop the CAPS curriculum, focusing on the Western Art Music, part of Music as a Matric Subject.
While living in Bloemfontein, Sjoerd conducted various large scale productions such as Fledermaus, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, Camelot, Sound of Music, Gizelle and Evita. For the performance of Bach’s Christmas Oratorio he was nominated Bloemfonteiner of the year. He conducted the Free State Youth Symphony Orchestra for 11 years, offering young musicians the opportunity to perform on a more professional level.
When Sjoerd made a career shift in 2008, the couple moved to the Cape where he completed his PhD at UCT on the conductors of the Cape Town Symphony Orchestra since inception in 1914 until 1965. A summary was included in the CPO’s centenary celebration book: A Century of Symphony.
In 2016 the Con Spirito Philharmonic Society appointed Sjoerd as musical director. Under his baton they performed various popular Night at the Opera productions, Handel’s The Messiah, Faure Requiem, Mozart’s Requiem, Bach’s St Johns Passion and Praise Song Festivals, among others. As soon as it becomes viable, performances will continue.
Allmusic expanded greatly when they purchased the book section of Lukas van der Walt Pianos in 2009. Available are music books they import directly from overseas publishers for any instrument and voice, be it in the fields of performance, tuition, exams (practical and theory), or ensembles, apart from offering good quality acoustic instruments and accessories. Included are South African composers and publishers as well.
In a congenial atmosphere, Allmusic often becomes a hub where friends and colleagues meet and share interesting thoughts on music. The best way for musicians to discover new music is through browsing. This expands knowledge and provides new possibilities in music tuition. A music book is like a child: it stays with one forever. The online store at www.allmusic.co.za makes their stock accessible anywhere.
The service of sourcing music is an important part of orders at Allmusic. Sjoerd’s experience as conductor, performer, accompanist, teacher and examiner contribute immensely towards this. With their combined experience, Sjoerd and Anna-Marie can advise on music publishers, quality of instruments, give ideas on music tuition and live up to their slogan: ‘what we can’t find, does not exist’.
After 42 years and well-known in the piano business, Lukas van der Walt retired and Sjoerd and Anna-Marie took over from him in December 2020. Together with van der Walt’s full staff complement, they are enjoying the journey and intricacies of managing sales, tuning, rentals, repair and transporting of pianos. Pianos last a lifetime, outlive electronic instruments and are environmentally friendly as all parts, except for plastic key tops, are made of natural materials.
Anna-Marie is assistant conductor of Con Spirito Philharmonic Society and sings in the choir during performances which, to her, is an expression of her inner-self. For her, studying often difficult music and immersing herself into the composer’s intentions and emotions, is a deeply fulfilling experience.
Having often been asked why she believes in the importance of music education, Anna-Marie refers to studies that show how music develops the mental, emotional and personal wellbeing of any person. A music teacher has the privilege and responsibility to teach learners because in music there is always more to play, more to learn and discover, more to listen to, or be moved by. Music connects people in ways that no other activity can. This connection is well established in Crescendo (https://www.crescendo.org/en), the international network of Christian musicians, of which the Alkema’s established the South African Institute.
Sjoerd received his first piano lessons at the Adolf Hallis Music School in Johannesburg. When the family moved to Bloemfontein, he played violin in the Free State Youth Orchestra and performed piano concertos under the baton of Jack de Wet. In Cape Town he received piano lessons from Neil Solomon and completed his MMus at UCT with piano lecturers Lamar Crowson and Laura Searl. Anna-Marie grew up in Potchefstroom where she completed her BMus. The two met at a youth camp of their church. Their four children, Theo (BMus, MBA), Siewert (MBChB), Adriaan (Bachelor of Fine Arts) and Leana (MMus) were all involved in music and sport in their childhood, Leana the only one that pursued a professional career as Cellist.