Sheldon Rocha Leal is currently the Director of Culture and Music at Southdowns College, a private school in Centurion and is also an academic, songwriter, performer and musicologist.
He holds a BA in Law and Psychology from UNISA, a BMus Honours and MMus (Cum Laude) from the University of Pretoria and a PhD in Music Business and Curriculum Design from the University of the Free State.
Besides for being in music education for the past 19 years he is also a performer and songwriter, having written songs for multiple artists including the SAMA award winning songstress Lira and artists like RJ Benjamin, Yves, Danny K and Karen from Idols. His music has had extensive playlisting on various radio stations nationally.
Sheldon has been instrumental in guiding and mentoring the careers of many young artists and music business leaders, assisting in recording company contract negotiations, utilizing his knowledge of the law and intellectual property rights.
He has appeared on various television shows including being a musical mentor and vocal coach on The Voice Angola and a Top 5 finalist on the SABC 3 television reality contest Crux Gospel Star. Sheldon has also served as a music commentator on SAFM, 702, Metro, Midrand and Eden FM.
Additionally, he has hosted and MC’d various shows including being the face of Givenchy, Black Flys and on a show in which he introduced the topic of how South African Music has Transformed international music trends for the United Nations.
Sheldon has also been a guest speaker at various national and international conferences, including presenting workshops and papers at the Moshito Festival, one of Africa’s biggest music conferences, the IEB National and Regional music conferences and at a Nelson Mandela University music colloquium.
Q&A with Sheldon
Tell us something about yourself that nobody knows?
One of the songs I wrote with RJ Benjamin, “C U In My Dreams”, was a No1 hit on Metro FM. Additionally, I once auditioned to be a member of the boy band Eden and even made it as far as being considered to be one of the members of the band. Unfortunately, the member that was leaving the band decided to return and I missed out on my big opportunity to become a member of a boy band.
What tips can you share that have helped to shape your career?
Firstly, I believe that everything that happens in a person’s life will prepare them for their eventual purpose and that, therefore, one should be very aware of everything that is happening around oneself and take it all in, as these are valuable lessons that will prepare one for a bigger role. Secondly, it is essential that everyone follow their true convictions and not be limited by the noise that surrounds them. People are often distracted or hindered by the noise that surrounds them (people being negative or trying to dissuade them from following their dreams) and at the end of the day, one only lives one life. That life is our own and not someone else’s and, therefore, we are only accountable to ourselves. Thirdly, I don’t believe in competition, because if we are competing against someone else, we can only ever be the same as that someone else, and not better, because that other person is the best at being themselves than anyone else can be, and therefore one can’t compete with that. Additionally, if one is focusing one’s attention on being better than someone else, it means the focus will always be on that someone else and not yourself, so how can you ever get better. The focus is all wrong and one needs to refocus on developing oneself.
One of my favourite performances ever was in the late 2000s when I was asked to perform at a Pride event, which was hosted at a club. I had been in studio doing some recordings with a well-known producer, who had secured the gig. On the night I performed after Lira and I was totally blown away by her stage presence. Backstage prior to her performance we had shared some performance secrets. I couldn’t believe that I needed to follow the grand diva, but I did my thing and the audience was positive about my stage performance. This was a validating experience for me and I even got to share some time with an iconic South African artist.
Advice you would give to your 18 year old self in one sentence?
Do everything the way you are doing, because there were no wrong answers. Everything you are doing will be valuable to what you will eventually do. Although what you will do is not what you set out to do, it will be equally rewarding and your true purpose, so don’t be too hasty to get to where you are going, enjoy the journey, because that’s what’s important (the process and not the end goal).
Best advice you were given when you started out?
To stick to my guns and not to listen to the noise that was surrounding me and to follow my true purpose. I had to figure out what that purpose was, as at the time I didn’t really know.
With FAME Week Africa being hosted in the Mother City, what do you love about Cape Town?
Cape Town is one of the most beautiful cities in the whole world. Although it is in South Africa, it feels like one is somewhere else, because it has such a cosmopolitan and international feel, with such a confluence of different cultures, ethnicities and tastes. It’s a true melting pot in an exquisite setting.