Darlene bio photo

I was born into a very musical family. My father and mother both sang in a musical group and my mom was taking music lessons at the time.

My mother had to stop taking lessons because it was almost impossible for her to get close to the piano. Every time she opened the piano I would want to be on her lap and play as well. My dad eventually showed me how to play the left hand when I was around three.

At five I took my first formal music lessons for about nine months during which time I couldn’t learn how to read notes fast enough. I loved it! We moved and for a while there were no lessons. During this time I would listen to music and then figure it out on the keys. Finally, my mom and dad realized it was time to get me more lessons and I was taken to Pretoria Technical College in South Africa for an interview.

So, began my journey and love affair with the piano. I had a wonderful music teacher, Mrs. Dekenah, who never stopped me from playing by ear and even encouraged my love for sight reading by playing duets with me rather than working on scales at times. From the time I was nine until I was eighteen I played very formal music exams as well as had theory exams every year through UNISA. (The University of South Africa) It was nerve wracking and tough but kept me challenged to keep honing my skills.

In 1986 I was student of the year for Mrs. Dekenah, performing at the Technical College. In the years I was taking piano I performed in many Eisteddfods (music competitions) and received many gold and silver certificates. All the while I also had the privilege of accompanying my dad from the age of nine on-wards. I also had the opportunity to play in church a lot.

When I was 16 my dad moved to be principal of a school in a different town. The private school I attended needed an accompanist for the choir. During the three years I was the accompanist for this choir we won many awards and had the opportunity to perform in big concert halls. I was also invited to accompany several other artists. During this time I started teaching piano. In 1993 I competed in a national competition by entering one of my originals and placed in the top 8 in the country. I graduated from high school in 1994 and also completed my highest grade in music through UNISA at that time.

In college I once again had the privilege of singing and playing in the choir as well as for several smaller musical groups. During this time I also had the opportunity to play for several weddings and big events as well as accompany a famous German opera singer. For a few months I also took classical guitar and organ lessons but there were too many other things going on and I had to drop those two instruments.

After graduating from college I went to Korea for 18 months and had the privilege of playing for many events in the English schools I was teaching in. After returning from South Korea I began teaching at a little private school and was responsible for all the music for grade on through seven as well as the choir. It was so much fun and we had several big performances. In 2002 my brother and I had the opportunity to record a two piano CD in South Africa. It was a lot of fun. Him and I also had a mostly a capella quartet at the time. We traveled and performed all over the country.

When I came to the United States there was a brief lull in my musical involvement since I was an au pair for a year. During this time I occasionally played in small local churches. When I moved to Collegedale to pursue my Masters in Counseling I once again had the opportunity to play in two of the largest churches in the area as well as teach again. I was also part of a praise and worship band, Waypoint, for a few years.

It was during this time that I met the other members of Forte Strings and they invited me to play with the group. It happened around 2009. Since then I have had the best time playing in Forte Strings. The chemistry in the group is amazing and it has challenged me to become a better musician. Right now I have the privilege of expanding my musical skill by playing in two other groups with different genres of music to Forte Strings. I hope to have the privilege of playing with Forte Strings for years to come.