Business woman and Artist Lesley Jennings grew up in Ladybrand, a small town in the Free State on the border of Lesotho. Throughout school, she took part in music lessons at the local music academy, sang in the choir and was constantly busy with music; as an instrumentalist, or engaged in the planning and hosting of various musical performances.She moved to Bloemfontein in 2010 to study music at the University of the Free State, majoring in saxophone performance. “It was from here that my love for arts administration began. I worked and volunteered for various orchestras alongside my teaching job as a freelancer at Saint Andrew’s Boys School. I’ve always been inspired to do more for our industry, and would constantly create opportunities to perform, especially for jazz musicians.”

On some of the challenges she’s faced with, Lesley says that the music industry isn’t really governed by a professional body, so although there is a lot of representation and organizations that protect recording artists, there isn’t much around the free market of gigging, hence she started the Gig Culture agency. She says the industry is very saturated and highly competitive, which is very much a good thing. However, she also mentions that as artists, it is their responsibility to educate their audiences and clients on the value of the live performances, whether it is a performance fee or the cost of a concert tickets. “Being in the Free State, we often hear how difficult it is to do business, but there is nothing that will hold you back if you have a clear vision, and perseverance – all of my challenges have been overcome through consistent planning and diligent execution.”

Lesley is most proud of having created and hosted Jazz Evenings, as they developed the Bloemfontein Jazz Movement in 2013 and kept it running successfully by hosting various artists from across the country and building a Jazz Community in Bloemfontein. They also launched Startup Grind in Bloemfontein in November 2016 and she is incredibly proud of their 2018 May event, where they hosted 10 remarkable female entrepreneurs and brought together over 100 business women under one roof with a shared vision. A highlight for 2018 was having been a part of the Production Team for MACUFE.

Never giving up on her dream to empower musicians and create valuable platforms for people to connect with each other is why she believes she is a woman who ROCKS! “I strongly believe that growth comes from skills and knowledge transference, unfortunately you can’t learn everything from a book or at school. Often the most valuable knowledge comes from experience and conversations with industry leaders, and I have managed to create these opportunities in my community.”

Her dream is to change the way the world experiences and treats music and business because she says there is a very strong sense of dependence on existing opportunities and the culture and the drive to create is not quite strong enough in our community. Lesley would like to demonstrate to young people that it is possible to create something out of nothing and that the solutions to the many problems we all face, are our responsibility to create. “I would love to continue to foster relationships across Africa and globally in order to bring South Africa, but more importantly the Free State, to the forefront of talent.”