A flute and dogged determination. This is how an engineer won a Grammy
Wouter Kellerman took an unusual path to the Grammy Awards. It started with a visit to the orchestra at the age of 10. Surrounded by a symphony of sound, the humble flute stood out. It was simple compared to its instrumental counterparts, but powerful enough to move a young Kellerman. That year, he started learning to play and grew to show unquestionable talent. But circumstances got in the way of his future as a flautist. “I wanted to study music but didn’t have money,” Kellerman says. So he pursued what seemed like a sensible path in electrical engineering, and for years turned his back on his dreams.
“It was a very, very long journey finding my way back to music,” Kellerman says. Thirty years in fact. By then Kellerman had a family of his own to support, and the financial strain thwarted any attempts to pursue his talent. “Every few years I’d try and swap over to music, run out of money, go back to engineering,” he says. It continued like this until Kellerman, by this time in his 40s, realised that playing the flute wasn’t optional; it was an undeniable part of his being. “I was so passionate, I just worked myself to death,” Kellerman says. “I started experimenting and slowly over time melodies crystallised.”
The energy he sacrificed for his art showed in his first album, which was nominated for a South African Music Award. Kellerman has since gone on to receive seven SAMAs. In 2015, he won a Grammy Award – the highest accolade a musician can receive. For Kellerman, it affirmed just how far his talent could take him. “When that finally happened it was an amazing moment,” he says. Now, Kellerman is making music that represents his country and sharing it with a global audience. He recently collaborated with the Soweto Gospel Choir on an album that integrates different styles and languages. “My passion lies in spreading good energy through music here in South Africa,” Kellerman says. The result of his efforts prove that it’s never too late to start. Success doesn’t happen immediately, but if you act with purpose it’s inevitable.