Mad, passionate, funny, enthusiastic, energetic, indefatigable, delightful …. any and all of those words describe Milena Toma, the orchestra’s assistant manager and tutti violin. Milena was born in Bloemfontein and studied in Bucharest in Romania and Geneva in Switzerland before returning to South Africa. She came to Cape Town in 2014 via the Johannesburg Philharmonic and life for the CPO has never been the same! What she does is daunting … first of all, she’s a musician so she has parts to practise and rehearsals to attend. Then she has to find the ad hocs when the orchestra is expanded for large symphony concerts and this has her tearing her hair out when harpists are at a convention or there are no bassoons in town; she has to replace ill people sometimes with a couple of hours’ notice as in the Summer Festival when a flautist, already an extra musician, took ill on concert day. Of course he had taken the music home to practise so there was none for the quickly engaged substitute …. It was only the arrival of CPO driver Derrick Wildeman at the City Hall that stopped her from jumping in her car to collect it in Muizenberg and miss the rehearsal! It’s all about priorities at the time, she says. Milena can also be found sitting on the floor in the overflowing orchestra office working on her tablet, offering people a chocolate (that she gets from her super-hero, general manager Ivan Christian), catching a quick cigarette outside or checking her fitness tracker for reminders, calls and messages or, of course, checking that the musicians are doing what they should be doing. She’s rarely at home since she is married to the orchestra!
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