Students in awe of music from the Bach of the bus
A violin-playing varsity shuttle driver strikes a chord with Cape Town youngsters
Every weekday morning, Tom Truter arrives at work at the University of Cape Town just before 6am, picks up the Jammie Shuttle he will drive that day, then parks behind the Clarinus Village residential hall.
Truter then puts the hour before he hits the road to good use: he pulls out the violin stowed behind his seat, sets up a music stand in his empty bus and practises his music. A violin player since his teenage years, the 55-year-old still takes lessons and practises in his spare time.
“If I get the chance, I practise, because I’m a bit stressed with time,” Truter said in his bus.
Last Thursday, Truter began playing the violin in his bus outside Clarinus as UCT student Palesa Molopyane waited in the car park for a friend to pick her up. Molopyane said she “heard music out of nowhere”. Looking inside the shuttle, she found Truter playing.
She tweeted a five-second video, saying: “Caught this Jammie driver playing the violin this morning … I’m in awe!”
It attracted hundreds of retweets and likes, with one Twitter user saying Truter listened to classical music while driving the shuttle. Another tweeted: “Homie has vision. Respect to the man!”Molopyane said she didn’t expect the tweet to “blow up” like it did. “It felt good that he was also getting recognised,” she said. “And people found that it was very inspiring that he … was still pursuing something he was passionate about.”
Although for Truter the attention from the tweet has been “a bit much”, he said he enjoys interacting with students on the shuttle, particularly those who study music. He says students sometimes approach him wanting to talk about the classical music he plays on the radio or the violin he keeps with him.
Students seem to enjoy the classical music he plays on the radio, Truter said.
“I like it. It’s quite cathartic,” third-year medical student Ali Walker said of the music while riding in the shuttle. Although classical music isn’t Molopyane’s favourite, she said she knows it can be “refreshing” for some people on the way to and from class.
Like them, Truter is a student of music. He still takes lessons once a week after “basically a lifetime” of learning. Truter started out on the violin after his sister began taking lessons when he was a teenager. Truter would tag along, and once they got home he would snag the violin and practise on his own.Violin isn’t the only instrument he picked up: Truter, from Athlone, also dabbles in the piano, trumpet and flute. His father was an organist at their church and taught musical theory at his primary school. Music is simply “in the genes”.
Truter said he thought about studying and playing the violin professionally after school. Finances got in the way, however, and after a succession of jobs, including being a security guard, he became a bus driver for Golden Arrow in Cape Town in 2004.He never stopped playing, taking lessons on and off when he could and, although he is still trying to shake some of the bad habits he picked up from teaching himself, Truter said playing is one of his passions. The early-morning quiet of his shuttle provides a good time to practise.
“When I get here, it’s just me, the violin and the music,” Truter said. “I don’t actually look about what’s going on around me, it’s just when people come up to me and knock on the door, that’s when I take notice of them. But otherwise, my head is in the music.”
And when he hits a note just right, Truter said the violin can make the bus ring.
“I like it because it’s very challenging,” he said. “There are no notes that you can actually point, you need to guess where the notes are. And if you’re good enough, you’ll get it spot on.”Truter said he hopes to one day teach violinists himself. He plays in a the Cape Town Development Orchestra through the New Apostolic Church, which bridges the gap between young music students with semi-professional musicians.
Truter said he likes the camaraderie he feels with like-minded orchestra members.
“Being able to play in a group, it makes sound so much better,” he said. “[The instruments] have different voices and they blend together so nicely that it just gives you goosebumps.”
Like the young people he sits next to in the orchestra, Truter sees himself as a student.
“Today I’m still learning,” he said. “I won’t be able to stop learning.”