Music Arts blog

JazzQuest Judges - 2016

17 Jun 2016
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The 2016 judges of JazzQuest are Richard Pickard and Matt Steele. The competition is almost full with a number of schools increasing their amount of jazz bands participating. It's an indication that Christchurch secondary school jazz music is in great shape and being advanced by strong leadership from HoD's, teachers and band leaders. 

JazzQuest is extremely pleased to continue the tradition of getting the country's top jazz players and educators to judge the competition. Recent judges include Nick Granville, Dixon Nacey, Daniel Hayes and Lauren Ellis.

Matt Steele

Matt Steele is a young Wellington based jazz pianist and keyboard player. A dynamic performer and teacher, in his music Matt demonstrates a "'wider awareness, an openness, and a hunger for what is just out of reach" (John Fenton, Jazz Journalists Association, 2014). He is the 2012 winner of the Lewis Eady Charitable Trust Emerging Artists Series and has played with many musicians and bands throughout New Zealand and Australia including - Lisa Tomlins, Lex French, Roger Manins, Chelsea Prastiti, Julien Dyne, Myele Manzanza, The Aviators, Auckland Jazz Orchestra and Pyramids. Major festival performances include R&V, Parihaka and the Tauranga National Jazz Festival. (Photo credit John Fenton)

Richie Pichard

With over twenty years of professional experience, Richie has played extensively throughout New Zealand and globally in a range of formats. 

A vastly experienced performer, he has worked in a wide variety of musical contexts from pop, folk, soul and rock music through to jazz, musical theatre, cabaret and orchestral contexts.

As both an electric and double bass player he has performed with international artists including Josh Groban, Elaine Paige and Mary Coughlan and with some of New Zealand's top musicians, bands, and songwriters including Breaks Co-op, Julia Deans, Dave Dobbyn, Anika Moa and Annie Crummer.

Alongside his professional music career, he has also established himself as a progressive and dynamic music educator, teaching at some of New Zealand's leading schools and institutions including the University of Canterbury, CPIT (now Ara) and the University of Auckland. 

He's currently a senior tutor on the Auckland Philharmonia's 'Sistema Aotearoa' programme, based in South Auckland.

Richard Ashby - Graduate - Q & A

16 Jun 2016

Q: Who are you? Where are you? What year did you graduate?

Richard Ashby - originally from Gore…been living in Sydney since 2008.  Graduated Dip.Jazz in 2002, and BMusHons (jazz) from University of Canterbury in 2004.

Q: What is your instrument and when and why did you start playing?

Guitar.  Started playing about age 12. I come from a musical family and grew up playing rock 'n' roll and country gigs around Southland and Otago. After school job during high school was playing gigs in country pubs and rugby clubs - quite a sight for a 14-15 year old at times!  By about 17-18 I was more into Blues and Rock, particularly instrumental guitar music like Joe Satriani. After a year at the SIT in Invercargill improving my music theory and reading, I decided I wanted to learn to play jazz and how to improvise. 

Q: How did Jazz school influence you and your playing? Tutors?Gigs?Workshops? 

Initially Jazz School was a shock to the system.  Coming from a rock and blues covers background I felt I couldn't say what I wanted to say on the guitar anymore, compared to how expressive accomplished jazz players could be.  After the first six months of the diploma course I realised I wanted to be able to improvise, and that was really my main motivation.  I have to credit Bob Heinz for instilling in me such a thorough knowledge of the guitar and music theory.  He helped to break down a lot of the barriers on my instrument and showed me how to access the whole instrument effectively.  Regular gigs at Vesuvio's, Sammy's, Sol Square among others helped me to build a repertoire (mostly of funk songs in the beginning!) and to gain confidence as a jazz performer. Just being able to play with experienced tutors on a daily basis was probably the greatest aspect of the jazz course - for me, having the opportunity to play with Gwyn Reynolds, Simon Lean-Massey, Harry Harrison, Cameron Pearce, Bob Heinz, Doug Caldwell and many others taught me so much very quickly.  Although at times intimidating, it was the best way to jump in the deep end and discover what could be achieved on an instrument.

Q: What is your greatest musical achievement to date? What are your current/future projects?

Since relocating to Sydney eight years ago, I've been fortunate enough to establish Spyglass Gypsies - a gypsy jazz group that has been performing for the past six years around the country.  We currently have funding through the Australian Arts Council, have toured nationally and have been lucky enough to perform at many major festivals and with several international artists including guitar luminary Hank Marvin, Dutch guitar virtuoso Lollo Meier and most recently with Portuguese Fado singer Ana Moura, in a sold-out show at Sydney's Enmore Theatre. 

Currently we are working on our second album of original music, which features influences from Gypsy Swing, Fado, Rumba and Musette. We hope to bring the group to New Zealand in 2017, so keep an eye out for us
 www.facebook.com/spyglassgypsies

Q: What is your fondest memory of Jazz school? 

Some of my fondest memories of Jazz school are of discovering new music either during ensemble rehearsals or when trawling through the extensive jazz school library.  Others include time spent performing with fellow students either on gigs or during rehearsal time, especially the early days when improvising was still a largely undiscovered skill and the moments of real expression and communication were rare and often unexpected.  I think ultimately the fondest memory is of when I realised that here was a genre of music I totally connected with, even though I didn't understand a lot of it yet. 

Here's a few quotes:  

Bob - 'Well I guess you could play Stella in 3/4, but you know it'll sound bad…'

Simon Lean - 'That's a nice new guitar.'

Me - 'Yea, I got it to play gypsy jazz on'

Simon -  'Oh, sorry to hear that' 

Harry Harrison - 'She had a vibrato that would take the air out of a sponge cake'

Jackson Hardaker - graduate profile

07 Jun 2016
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Ara Music Arts graduate Jackson Hardaker's journey as a professional Trombonist began like many others. His parents instilled an early passion for music, but it wasn't until his second year on the instrument that he really started listening.

"I don't think at that stage I was even paying attention to who the artists were I was listening to." He admits, "I was just concentrating on the playing, soaking it all in. When I was about 14 I started digging into people, Thelonious Monk, those kind of cats."

Dissatisfied with his high school's classical music focus, he joined the Ara Music Arts big band before auditioning for the programme in 2006.

"I did a stint before hand where I thought I was going to be a computer scientist! I did a year at UC, but I found I just really missed playing. So I decided to follow my passion and take the leap."

"I think for me the most enjoyable thing about the course was that I never got the sense that the tutors were standing on a pedestal. There was a really big sense that we were in it together and the tutors would often let us in on the projects they were working on. We'd often hang out for a coffee or go to the pub and have a chat, it made for a really good learning environment."

After graduating in 2009 Jackson moved to New York to study at the Aaron Copland School of Music. Now a resident of the big apple, he plays on the local scene wherever the opportunity arises in venues ranging from Le Poisson Rouge (formally the illustrious Village Gate) to Forest Fills Stadium (the venue of several renown Beatles gigs). May last year he released his first album 'Watering Can'.

"It's certainly a better city to be a music fan than a musician. There's so many musicians out there, any given night you can go out and see however many people you'd want and they're all fantastic. It's a challenging city and there's a lot of competition. You can't beat it."

 "If you're serious about becoming a professional musician, go for it. I loved the Music Arts course, there's nothing strenuous, but if you're just gonna coast through and do the bare minimum, that's what you'll get out of it. The best musicians I've seen that have come out of the course went that extra mile. The music arts course gave me the perfect grounding to jump off and do a whole lot more than I would have otherwise."