Jasmine Moira Thomas – better known as Sista Boss – has been working at the Field Band Foundation Head Office as Regional Operations Manager for 4 years, but her love for music began when she was much younger.
Moira first became interested in music when she was in church and heard the church band playing. It was mostly boys who were allowed to play the instruments.
At the age of 16 she joined the Kimberley Field Band, playing the baritone.
Everybody thought I had gone mad. I was so tiny that I had to stand on a chair, and put my instrument on another chair. As a girl I had to work extra hard, I was expected to be tough all the time. Brass and percussion was supposed to be the strong and physical groups in the band. I had to do push-ups and run around in the schoolyard. It was really military-style!
There were days when Moira wanted to quit playing, but her brass teacher reminded her again and again that she was doing this for all the girls out there. Moira says that you have to be emotionally strong if you want to be a girl in a brass group. You need confidence and you have to be willing to take responsibility. In South Africa most girls keep in the background because they are scared of getting laughed at. She explains that this is the reason a lot of girls stop playing in Field Band Foundation.
Even though Moira was met with a lot of scepticism amongst the boys, and it sometimes was very hard physically, she refused to give up. She wanted to prove everyone wrong and make them realise that even small girls could play the baritone at least as good as any of the guys.
I took the challenge, I wanted to show them, I wanted to make it, I couldn’t let them see that I was weaker than them.
The tutors in the band saw Moira’s potential and dedication. They gave her responsibilities, support and attention.
They treated me like a little sister and always took care of me. I was treated well, felt respected and that my opinion was valued.
Moira surprised the boys and after a while she gained their respect for her musical talent and dedication. She was quickly chosen to be the group leader for the brass section. Moira loved being a leader. She loved talking, something that made the members come to her with their thoughts and opinions.
Moira proudly tells about the time they started a new field band and she got seven other girls to start playing the baritone. Moira thinks they kept it going for so long because the atmosphere among the girls was so good, and they supported each other. They got their own proud identity within the band and were referred to as the “baritone girls”.
To be a leader for seven girls was the best feeling ever! I loved playing in the new band and to meet the other girls in the group. The seven baritone girls continued to play for a long time despite the fact that the brass group was dominated by boys.
After being chosen for a three month long exchange program in the Pioneer Drum and Bugle Corps in the US, Moira was chosen as the new brass tutor in her band. Not long after this she got the opportunity to participate in the FK Norway exchange program ”Bands Crossing Borders” and got to experience Toneheim Folkehøgskole in Norway. These experiences led to Moira being promoted to PO in Cullinan, a field band outside Pretoria. Moira says that belonging to a community is the most important thing in the Field Band Foundation.
To do something together and to accomplish something together is the most amazing feeling. This feeling was topped when we, the Cullinan Field Band, won the National Championship in Johannesburg in 2007.
After this success, Moira got an unexpected call from Retha, the former CEO of Field Band Foundation. Moira was promoted to Regional Operations manager, and came to work at the Head Office in Johannesburg.
It was scary in the beginning; it took six months before I found my place in the new job. It was challenging, but I thought to myself: this will of well. I wanted to give all the girls out there someone to look up to. If Moira can do it, YOU can do it.
Written by Solvor, based on interviews by PULSE 1 and 2