Ara musicians shine at Jazz & Blues Festival

News News & events

22 May 2018

Five days, to see over thirty shows, across ten venues; it’s the Cavell Leitch New Zealand International Jazz and Blues Festival and it's powered by Ara tutors and graduates.  

Head of Creative Industries at Ara, Tom Rainey is a Festival Trustee, as well as a member of the Symposium Jazz Orchestra set to perform with Fantine on Friday 25 May.

“It’s wonderful to see graduates on stage, and I am immensely proud of them,” he says. “It’s a great opportunity for them to play in a festival like this. They can hold their heads up and entertain audiences just as well as the international acts and artists.”


Head of Creative Industries at Ara Tom Rainey and tutor/graduate Michael Story on acoustic bass with Irish singer and festival favourite Mary Coughlan at the 2017 Cavell Leitch New Zealand International Jazz and Blues Festival.

Now celebrating its 23rd year the Festival has cemented itself as a prominent event in the Christchurch music scene. This year’s programme runs from 23-27 May and has a packed line-up, featuring numerous Ara Music Arts tutors and graduates as well as top local and international artists and musicians.

“We’ve been teaching Jazz here now for twenty-seven years, and I think right from the beginning we were involved with this festival. So it’s been a really fruitful and close relationship of support both ways,” Rainey says.

The programme is packed with Music Arts tutors, some of whom are rehearsing for three shows with different ensembles. Founder of Jazz School at Ara Neil Pickard also features.

Throughout the festival Ara will host a number of concerts in the Doug Caldwell Auditorium on High Street, for the Ara Music Arts Jazz Series.

Rainey says, “By doing so we can support emerging artists, and really highlight some of the talent here at Ara. That’s what we focus our series on.”

Current Music Arts students will also benefit from the festival this week, when artists Jimmy Smyth (a guitarist from Ireland) & Matt Postle (USA trumpet player) visit them in class to impart some of their experience and wisdom to the students.

Rainey says that although jazz is a “niche genre” the Festival will offer a broad spectrum of music catering to different tastes.
“This festival is a celebration of music, and jazz and blues are the ideal type of music for people to just chill out, and listen to something different. There’s lots of variety there for people to enjoy, definitely.”

“I’m really looking forward to seeing Kurt Elling, the headline act, who I’m sure will also have a great band. He really is one of the top jazz vocalists in the world, so he’ll be wonderful to see.”

Some international acts of the Festival include Grammy award winner Kurt Elling with his American Jazz quintet, Australian James Morrison, American Jazz singer Fantine and New Zealand blues master Darren Watson.

Details and tickets at: https://jazzbluesfestival.co.nz/

The full line-up of acts featuring Ara staff and graduates:

  • Ara Music Arts Jazz Series: Wednesday 23- Saturday 26 May (varying times). At Doug Caldwell Auditorium, Ara Music Arts, 130 High Street. $12 (6pm)/ $15 (8pm). Featuring: The Stick!, Kate Taylor, The Goldonies, Hamish Smith, Sam Gauntlett, Jimmy Smyth, GoGo Calypso and RPE Duo.
  • Fantine with the Symposium Jazz Orchestra: Friday 25 May 7.30pm, The Piano (156 Armagh Street), $45. Led by Ara Music Arts programme leader Gwyn Reynolds, and accompanied by tutors Scott Taitoko, Cameron Pearce, Michael Story and Brad Kang, and Head of Performing Arts at Ara Tom Rainey.
  • Mary Coughlan sings Billie Holiday: Wednesday 23 May 7.30pm,The Piano (156 Armagh Street), $45. Ara tutors Joe McCallum (drums) and Rueben Derrick (reeds).
  • Jill Scott Tribute: Sunday 27 May 6.30pm, Christchurch Boys’ High School Hall, $20/$15.
    Ara NASDA graduate Roslen Ulaula (singer).
  • Fantine with Oval Office: Thursday 24 May 8pm, Blue Smoke, $35.
    Ara tutors: Richie Pickard, Gwyn Reynolds, Scott Taitoko, Andy Genge, Lissel Stewart.
  • Jazz Jam with Sumo: Sunday 27 May 7pm, Blue Smoke, $20. This will be an after party jam for the festival as Sumo Jazz play from their new album Shiko. They will be joined throughout the night by many of the local and international acts to play at the Festival. Sumo Jazz is made up of Ara tutors Gwyn Reynolds, Darren Pickering, Mike Story and Joe McCallum.
  • Noteable Young Women: Georgie Clifford- Thursday 24 May 1.10pm, The Piano (156 Armagh Street), $15/$12. Ara tutors Mike Story and Cameron Pearce
  • Noteable Young Women: Alice Tanner- Friday 25 May 1.10pm, The Piano (156 Armagh Street), $15/$12.
  • Jazz on the Tram: Thursday 24, Friday 25, Saturday 26 May -all 12-2pm.
    Michael Fairhurst (Ara graduate), Dave Pitt (Ara graduate and now HOD of Papanui High School Music Department), and Neil Pickard (founder of Jazz School at Ara).