Growing up in Polokwane (formerly Pietersburg) in South Africa's Limpopo Province, Judith knew that she wanted to be a singer from an early age. After matriculating at Khagiso High School, she attended Johannesburg's legendary FUBA Academy music school in 1993, where she received her Grade 5 Music Diploma. One of her fellow students was an ambitious young guitarist who she knew from Polokwane, one Selaelo Selota, a man who would play a major role in her career. Other achievements included reaching the finals of the Shell Road to Fame contest in 1994, and the finals in SABC's Jam Alley Search For Talent that year. In 1994 she made a significant move to Cape Town to study music at the University of Cape Town, graduating in 1997 with a Performer's Diploma in Jazz. Judith then gained her Honours Degree in Jazz Performance, majoring in Jazz Singing, under the supervision of Prof. Mike Campbell, in 1999. While studying Jazz singing, she was also classically trained by Virginia Davids for five years.
During her years in the Cape, Judith's reputation as a vocalist blossomed, and she had the opportunity to work in bands like (fellow UCT music student) Selaelo Selota's Taola, Meropa, UCT's Big Band, The C-Base Collective and The Cape Symphonic Orchestra. She also performed with Jimmy Dludlu, Loading Zone and Ian Smith's Virtual Jazz Reality, as well as alongside musicians such as Jack van Poll and Gerry Spencer, and sang at many a cocktail party and private functions. In 1996 JUDITH SEPHUMA was invited by Spencer to travel on the Symphony cruise ship for two months, visiting exotic places like Bazaruto, Mauritious, Zanzibar, Mombasa, and Reunion. Later the same year she performed, with the band Meropa, in Nantes, France at the Fin de Siecle Festival - her first overseas visit 1998/1999 with the assistance of pianist van Poll, Judith gained much experience performing in Europe, and among her gigs was being invited by the South African government to perform in Holland for the Mandela's Children Trust Fund.
Judith was invited by Jimmy Dludlu to perform at Thabo Mbeki's presidential inauguration in Pretoria, June 1999. In that year she also had the honour of meeting former president Nelson Mandela and sang a special song to him and his wife, Graca Machel, at the Cape Sun hotel. Another highlight of that year was singing at the Miss SA beauty pageant in Sun City. The young singer was certainly paying her music industry dues, developing skills like confidence, versatility, patience and professionalism, and all the while laying the secure foundations for her future success.
Having previously entered a number of music competitions, a pivotal moment came when Judith was awarded first prize for Best Jazz Vocalist at the Old Mutual Jazz Into The Future competition in June 1999 and she was signed to (then) BMG Africa’s imprint, Giant Steps, shortly afterwards. At the North Sea Jazz Festival in Cape Town in 2000, Judith formed her own backing band and performed under her own name and in 2001 she recorded her debut, A Smile, A Cry, A Dance.