The college afforded Abel the chance to play professionally, but he still feels indebted to the Masote family for honing his skills as a musician.  Speaking about Kutlwano, Sheila and Michael Masote, Abel beams. “The Masote family have been permanent pillars of my life and Kutlwano really inspired me as a cello player. He was one of the teachers at the organisation and he also had the privilege of studying at St. John’s. It is because of them that I am here today.”

Manchester calling

Having made an impression at St. John’s, Abel’s big break came knocking. The school enabled him a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to further his music studies abroad. The school paid for him to travel to the UK and Europe to audition for top music schools. The school’s belief in him wasn’t misplaced: Abel was offered three scholarships and ultimately chose to study at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester.

“It all went down to what the college could offer me because it’s a lot of money to fund someone to study abroad. Even with the scholarship, it’s still hard because there are things it does not cover, like rent for instance.”

With his mother, Mary Selaocoe, working as a domestic worker, Abel had to find other ways to make ends meet. He often takes to the streets of Manchester and plays for the crowd in return for money.  “It’s very hard and even today I still depend on people to give a hand. I needed to do something to also help myself and that’s where playing in the streets comes in,” he explains.

Abel recently won a spot to perform at his college’s prestigious annual showcase. It was even more special because his mother was able to see him perform after her employers paid for the trip. Smiling, Abel says the concert was his moment to shine and he was glad to share it with his mother.

As for his future plans, Abel says he just wants to focus on making sure he becomes the best classical musician he can be. “The main goal is to collect and give as a musician, it doesn’t matter where I am,” he says.

“Also, I want to create a cello music group and go around touring with them. There are just so many things I want to achieve as a musician and I want to spend my time working towards achieving those goals.”

Watch a 15-year-old Abel play: