As a little boy Garneth Warnick enjoyed playing soccer with his friends, until he discovered a keyboard stashed under a bed at home.
Garneth, 17, from Morgenster in Beacon Valley is the National Youth Fest Teen Talent 2018 champion, having won the piano solo category and taken first place on Thursday July 5.
The National Youth Fest Teen Talent competition took place in Pretoria from Monday July 2 to Thursday July 5, with regional winners competiting for the top prize in categories for singing, playing an instrument, Bible quizzes, sports games and many other activities. In the arts and Bible quiz section, winners get to represent South Africa in the United States of America.
Garneth’s journey started at the tender age of 10 when he first started learning to play the piano, as his father gave him three basic chords to play. In 2010, on his way to his grandmother, his mother called Andrew Kenny, his first piano teacher.
Garneth recalls struggling to focus because he didn’t think the basics would be of any help; until he played Autumn Leaves, his first jazz standard. In 2014, Garneth moved to Shekinah Full Gospel Church where he trained under Spencer John Kennedy, his second piano teacher.
This was where Garneth learned to play in a band and play in front of an audience. Garneth is currently part of the Mitchell’s Plain Music Academy which he first joined in 2015.
“My passion grew since I joined the music school,” he said. “I liked that there was a focus on theory because I learned to play better and improve my tenique.
The music school also gave me an opportunity to play at some big events in Cape Town”.
Mitchell’s Plain Music Academy principal, Trevino Isaacs, said when Garneth joined the academy he was very clear about his goals. “He knows what he wants. He told me that he was at Oval North High School that focuses on engineering and when I had asked him what he wanted to do, it was clear he wanted to do music.
“I had to push him to complete his Grade 5 in music which he passed successfully. He has really grown over the years, playing Grade 7 pieces, accredited through Trinity College, London. He is a motivated, passionate instrumentalist. He knows what he wants and he goes and gets it.”
The Mitchell’s Plain Jazz Festival, in 2017, and the Cape Town Jazz Festival, which took place earlier this year, are two of the biggest events he has played at so far.
The biggest inspiration in Garneth’s young career is Mr Isaacs, who is his piano teacher.
“I was inspired by his story and his determination of wanting to be more, regardless of where he came from. He was giving a testimony of his background and him being a child of Mitchell’s Plain. At the high tea event, where I was chosen to play, Trevino said ‘Don’t let where you come from determine where you are going’,” Garneth said.
His mother, Loretta Warnick, said Garneth showed his first interest in the piano at the age of 8.
“I remembered on one Sunday afternoon, the day when his father taped the notes onto the keyboard. I thought it was my husband playing. I walked to Garneth’s room to see Garneth, who figured out the notes himself.
“We decided to have him go to formal training. From the word go, Garneth showed passion and commitment throughout. Sometimes I get a little upset because during the night I will hear the keyboard playing but that is all part of his journey. He really lives for music, and we will continue to support his passion.”
His father, John Warnick added: “Garneth is very disciplined and dedicated in what he does. I enjoy listening to live music, especially jazz.
“I am a proud father and happy that I can watch my son play and do his thing.”
His brother Jesse Warnick, 14, plays the guitar and shared the stage with his brother at the Cape Town Jazz Festival.
His youth leader, Donavan Witbooi, said Garneth has excelled against the odds.
“He experiences the same challenges like any other young person growing up in Mitchell’s Plain. We are proud of him for taking up this challenge to participate in this competition. This achievement of Garneth has challenged us as an institution to look at ways to invest more resources into grooming our young people and supporting them.”
Garneth, playing a solo piano piece, will be representing South Africa at the International Teen Talent contest in Tennessee, USA, next year.