Honouring A Jazz Great: The Hugh Masekela Heritage Scholarship

Today would’ve been Bra Hugh’s 80th birthday and we pay tribute to this world famous and much loved musician. And now six lucky South Africans will have the opportunity to continue in his legacy with the announcement of The Hugh Masekela scholarship at the Manhattan School Of Music in New York.

Hugh started playing the trumpet at the tender age of 14, when anti apartheid activist Father Trevor Huddleston gave him one to play. Soon the Huddleston Jazz Band was formed and his career in music continued to soar from there. The legend’s determination, skill and love for music saw him creating a career that spanned half a century and impacting jazz lovers worldwide.


Masekela who was in exile from South Africa for 30 years, enrolled at the Manhattan School of Music, where he studied classical trumpet from 1960 to 1964. According to his official website, while there he ‘immersed himself in the New York jazz scene where nightly he watched greats like Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Thelonious Monk, Charlie Mingus and Max Roach. Under the tutelage of Dizzy Gillespie and Louis Armstrong, Hugh was encouraged to develop his own unique style, feeding off African rather than American influences – his debut album, released in 1963, was entitled Trumpet Africaine… His subsequent solo career has spanned 5 decades, during which time he has released over 40 albums (and been featured on countless more) and has worked with such diverse artists as Harry Belafonte, Dizzy Gillespie, The Byrds, Fela Kuti, Marvin Gaye, Herb Alpert, Paul Simon, Stevie Wonder and the late Miriam Makeba’.

Now on what would’ve been his 80th birthday, the Manhattan School of Music and the ELMA Music Foundation, in partnership with the Hugh Masekela Heritage Foundation, has established the Hugh Masekela Heritage Scholarship at MSM, honouring the great contribution to the world of jazz and his neverending love for, promotion of and dedication to music on his home continent- Africa.

Six South African applicants ‘who have faced significant social, educational, cultural, or economic challenges, and who have a demonstrated interest in the advancement of music consistent with Mr Masekela’s legacy and vision’, will be chosen to take up this incredible opportunity.

Says MSM President James Gandre,“We are enormously grateful for this scholarship grant and deeply honoured to be working with The ELMA Music Foundation and the Hugh Masekela Heritage Foundation to provide an educational and musical home to six South African students whose presence at the School will stand testament to Hugh Masekela’s vision and talent. He is one of MSM’s most distinguished alumni, and this is an apt extension of both his musical legacy and the important work that he did during his lifetime on social initiatives benefiting South Africans. The Hugh Masekela Heritage Scholars will be warmly welcomed to a vibrant community of aspiring young musicians who come to the School from 45 countries around the world.”

The scholarship as well as covering tuition costs will also provide living expenses for the entire four years of study for each of the six students.

“My biggest obsession is to show Africans and the world who the people of Africa really are.” – Hugh Masekela

To apply, students should visit Manhattan School Of Music Application Form to complete an application. Applications are accepted from September 1 through December 1.