Change the world


University choir alumnus and master’s degree graduate in Voice, Robert Gillmer, is the new Nelson Mandela University Choir Conductor.


The Choir's first performance together was at the recent Herald Citizen of the Year award ceremony in Gqeberha.

In addition, to the University Choir performances, Robert will also be involved in expanding an institutional approach to more choirs and singing on campus, such as in the residences, faculties, and societies.

Robert has recently been elected to serve as a committee member of the South African Society of Music Teachers’ Association for the next five years.

He is also the first in the country to have graduated with a master’s degree in performance art, specialising in contemporary commercial music, at the University’s April graduation this year.

Contemporary commercial music ranges from country, pop, rock, blues, and electro to RnB, basically music you hear more often on the radio, he says.

Robert did classical training in his diploma years and jazz during his degree.

Voice is his first instrument and during his master’s degree studies, he chose to focus on contemporary voice, but made sure to try classical, musical theatre and jazz too.

He also did piano as a second instrument and taught himself percussion.

Robert lectures at Mandela University and is a voice teacher at Woodridge College as well as previously at Victoria Park High School. He is also a community worship leader at Father’s House Church in Jeffreys Bay. He calls himself a collaborator, connector and industry professional.

While studying, Robert worked at Planet Fitness as a personal trainer, but also did some voice tutoring and he sang at the Boardwalk Centre for an income. He also performed in the SA Idols competition, the Klein Karoo Arts Festival and the Kirkwood Wildlife Festival.

In 2022, he presented a paper on contemporary music at tertiary institutions, along with his master’s study supervisor, Prof Alethea de Villiers, at the International Conference on Innovation in Basic-Higher Education in Istanbul. The paper on his research was also published in an international, accredited journal, The Journal of Applied Research in Higher Education.

The current University choir was formed 28 years ago; it currently comprises 26 members and is open to students and alumni. Their repertoire is ranges from traditional South African music to international and Western classical pieces and well-known contemporary music.

Robert hopes that the choir can again participate in KUESTA, the South African University Choir Festival, taking place in 2025, and apart from performances, will do recordings for digital platforms.

In its quest towards wellness, social inclusion and living the Mandela values, the University’s Arts, Culture and Heritage department plans to organise staff and student activities around voice as a transformative and cultural social agent.

The Le Strada Choir, a University society choir, is already an example of this inclusion, says Ryan Pillay, Deputy Director of Arts Culture and Heritage. .

A pilot project to involve the 14 residences on the Summerstrand campuses will soon start with a training workshop incorporating various genres and singing techniques and choirs. 

Contact information
Ms Elma de Koker
Internal Communication Practitioner
Tel: 041-504 2160