Johan de Villiers, Professor in Mathematics at Stellenbosch University and founder of the Libertas Choir, has been the choir’s conductor since 1989. His inspiring leadership, unique characteristics and exceptional competencies, inter alia choral recitals and choral training, enjoy worldwide recognition and esteem.
Johan comes from a musical family: his father, Dirkie de Villiers, was a former Head of Music in the Free State Education department while his grandfather, M.L. de Villiers, composed “Die Stem van Suid-Afrika” in 1920. In 1995, Johan served on a commission responsible for our new South African National Anthem.
After matriculating from Grey College, Bloemfontein, Johan furthered his studies at Stellenbosch University from 1966-1970, majoring in mathematics, applied mathematics and physics. As a student he sang in the Stellenbosch University Choir under Philip McLachlan and took piano lessons with John Antoniades. In December 1970, Johan left with his wife, Louwina Oosthuizen, for Cambridge University in England where he, as a Sir Henry Strakosch Memorial Scholar, obtained a PhD in Mathematics in 1974.
For the following 29 years Johan continued his academic career at Stellenbosch University as Senior Lecturer from 1974-1982, Associate Professor in the Department of Applied Mathematics from 1982-1989, and from 1989 until his retirement as Professor in the Department of Mathematics. He remains an Extraordinary Professor in the Department.
Since 1974 Johan has excelled in parallel to his academic career as a choral conductor. After having conducted combined residence choirs at the Stellenbosch annual Song Festivals from 1974-1976, he was appointed to succeed Philip McLachlan as the conductor of the Stellenbosch University Choir. He held this position for eight years from 1977-1984, during which time the choir undertook annual concert tours throughout South Africa, as well as two extensive overseas concert tours in 1979 and 1983 to Germany, Austria, Israel and England. In 1983 the Stellenbosch University Choir conducted by Johan won first prize in the SATV competition for university and college choirs. Johan‘s extensive experience in choral training and conducting techniques has been supplemented by research and formal instruction at various institutions including North-Western University in Evanston, Illinois, New England Conservatory of Music in Boston and Wisconsin University, Madison.
In 1989 he founded the Stellenbosch Libertas Choir together with his wife, Louwina, who remains the choir’s full-time manager.