Music Arts blog

Alan Robinson Guitar Award

28 Feb 2017
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The annual Alan Robinson Memorial Award for most promising first-year guitarist was jointly awarded to David Stupples and Justis Atkins-Te Kowhai, who both achieved a very similar grade at the end of their first year of study at Ara Music Arts (2016). Alan Robinson was a promising guitar student who passed away during his studies at Ara Music Arts (formerly CPIT Jazz School). This guitar award is given in his memory.

This is the seventeenth year the award has been presented, and has the names of many great guitar graduates on it, including David Haslett (currently touring NZ), Andrew Knopp (recently returned from Canada with his wife/band mate), Sam Blakelock (based in New York) and Richard Ashby (based in Sydney).

Programme Leader Gwyn Reynolds of the recipients;

“It’s great to see the award going to two students who are both into different genres of music [Jazz for David and Contemporary for Justis] but who are both expressing their passion for music through the same medium, the electric guitar. Both these guys are already great players and I can’t wait to hear them in a few years’ time.”

 

Photo – (from Left) Des Robinson, David Stupples, Gwyn Reynolds (Programme Leader – Ara Music Arts), Richard Marrett (Manager, Performing Arts)

Hannah Snelling - Visualising sound with water

29 Nov 2016

M.A.K.E. - Musical Audio Kinetic Electronics. Students from Ara Music Arts create their own instruments combining the physical with the electronic.

Sound 3 at Ara Music Arts this year has been full of interesting things to learn. Using Arduino, sound design and art, recording and exploring technology. It’s been fun. The best bit though was seeing my idea for visualizing sound with water take shape. Although I didn’t have the know how to build this project, the tutor, Dave Cooper, is very knowledgeable and showed me how to put it together.

So what did my project look like and how did it perform? What I made, with Dave’s help, was a series of 12 LED lit humidifiers which responded to the volume level of sound in the room. As the volume increased, new humidifiers started up to match it, in turn. The LED lights accompanying each one were green, amber or red. This was in order to imitate a mixing desk level: as the volume goes from a comfortable level to the high extreme, lights change from green to amber and then red. To clarify, if the volume level was at (1) only the first vaporizer (on the right of the row) would start, along with a green light. If the volume reached (10) all the green and amber lights would be lit (accompanying their humidifiers) but not the last two red LED’s. As the volume decreased, each vaporizer and light on the high end would turn off consecutively, as they had turned on.

All of that was made possible by wiring both the humidifiers and the LED’s through an arduino board so that they could be synchronized to turn on at the same time. The wiring process required some soldering to connect the LED’s and humidifiers to the arduino boards, which allowed the computer code to control them. A microphone and volume sensor was connected to control which ones should be on or off at the point in time. In order to make my contraption interactive with those of my classmates, the microphone was set up in front of the speaker through which the sounds coming from other “instruments” were heard. The code is a fairly simple, if ___, then___. For example, if the volume is greater than (1), then turn on (2). Or, if volume is less than (3), then turn off (3), and so on.

The most difficult part I think was getting the humidifiers to turn on by computer command instead of from their own individual switch. It was interesting seeing how the arduino board had to be wired so that the computer could “talk” to everything. So many little wires and connectors had to be plugged into the board in such a way that it would all work and not interfere with each other. I wouldn’t have known quite where to begin if trying to do this myself. My tutor did most of the difficult work for me, I just had the initial idea and helped with the wiring and testing. It was a lot of fun to build something so out of the ordinary.

Graduate Profile - L.A. Barus

28 Oct 2016
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Recalling her earliest memories of her mother singing and playing piano while the family sung in harmony alongside, Ara Music Arts graduate Lauren Barus, AKA LA Mitchell was destined for a career in music.

With her mother making piano lessons compulsory from the age of 6, Lauren recalls enjoying formulating chords but despising sight-reading.

“My grandmother had a small portable record player, my aunt had a collection of 45’s of Elvis and David Bowie under her old bed” she tells, “I remember being around 7 and spending hours playing Space Oddity over, and over again. I adored The Doors and spent a lot of my teens transcribing the organ solos”

Feeling that the curriculum was too restrictive, Barus refused to study music in High School in fear of judgment, instead confining herself to music in her spare time.

Picking up the guitar at age 15, Lauren starting writing songs in the vein of Pearl Jam, Beck, Pavement and Sebodoh, artists she was listening to at the time. She also cites Bic Runga’s debut as helping inspire her first forays into song writing.

“I was led to the belief in my teen years that you couldn’t make money out of music, (I was yet to learn that song-writing was a job) so I needed to justify the cost of study and how I was going to use music study to make a living and finance my wonton desires to pontificate my music. I researched all the institutions. I decided that although piano was my first instrument, I didn’t want to be a piano teacher. So I picked voice. I felt The Ara Music Arts course at the time, and still now, has the best Vocal tutors in the country. So I decided to come here for that tutelage.”

“I found my time at Ara to be academically really rewarding, creatively really challenging, personally transformative. I think the most important thing the Music Arts course gave me was time and space. You cannot underestimate the importance of having time to get really deep within your subject. Unrestrained time, in a space that is purpose built and designed to support the intention of becoming a master craftsperson. I took away from it all the tools I have ever needed, and some I didn’t know I needed, to be a successful session musician, writer, and professional performer.”

“My relationship with the tutors was inspiring, sometimes tumultuous, on my part, always tilted towards challenging me to be more than I thought I was capable of being. It inspired great care and respect for my instrument and for the world of professional musicianship.”

After graduating Lauren performed locally playing Jazz, as her profile grew she appeared in numerous Jazz and arts festivals across the country. Continuing to write and record independently, she released 2 album projects and 2 EP’s of original material. She was nominated in the top 20 Apra Silver Scroll award 2 years running for the songs Apple Heart and When It’s All Too Much.

“Since then I’ve worked with Christchurch Band, Dukes, achieving a platinum single with our song Vampires. I worked as a session musician for Dave Dobbyn, Bic Runga, Tim Finn, Anna Codington and Sola Rosa, Touring around NZ Multiple times as well as Australia, the UK, Singapore and Dubai. 

In 2009 she become a regular member of the collaborative touring ensemble ‘ Fly My Pretties, featuring on 3 albums and 4 Nation wide tours and 2 Australian tours. Barus currently splits her time between being a mother, managing a café and working on a variety of musical projects, one with her husband called Terrible Sons.

Graduate Profile - Johnny Lawrence

19 Sep 2016
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Ara Music Arts Graduate Johnny Lawrence’s journey as a musician started with his father, a classical pianist in Christchurch. Originally a guitarist, the bass became Johnny’s primary instrument after joining his father’s band.

“I eventually fell in love with it…at first I just wanted to play guitar, but [it was] the foundational aspect - how you’re the grounding the band. I love that big bass sound sitting at the bottom of a groove.”

Johnny credits another Music Arts graduate and his High School Bass tutor, Brett Hirst, with inspiring him to audition for the program. On reflection Johnny describes the positive environment and expertise of the tutors with making the program such an enjoyable experience.

As with many Music Arts graduates, Johnny spent the next several years aboard the cruise ships, playing first with a big band, before switching to a jazz trio.“I spent way too long on the cruise ships, I think on or off for about 6 or 7 years. The Jazz trio was great though, we really took it to the future by mixing electronic and groove into the mix.”

From there he went on to Asia playing the hotel covers circuit, before moving to Canada where he focused his playing on rock and pop before returning home to NZ in 2014.

“I loved playing with musicians of so many nationalities, especially Americans. I have a big love for American music and they seem to have the spirit of that music in them. Some of them truly are on another level and a bit more aggressive about making it.”

Since returning to New Zealand Johnny has found success with R&B/Soul/Electronica heroes Electric Wire Hustle. Having recently recorded and toured with them after relocating to Wellington.

“Work hard and play as much as you can with many different people is my advice. Stay hungry and committed to the music. If you have a passion for it you have to go for it. Keep your head down and dig deep and enjoy it!”

Sax Quartets - Gwyn Reynolds & Ted Meager

26 Aug 2016
Gwyn Reynolds

Sax Quartet - Gwyn Reynolds - Q & A

Tell us about your latest project.

Christchurch jazz drummer Ted Meager has composed and arranged a handful of amazing sax quartets. I’m slowly playing through them, recording all the parts and putting them on YouTube.

Why?

They’re that good, I reckon people need to listen to them. Hopefully some sax teachers might purchase them off Ted and get their students to have a go at them. The versions on YouTube will also help the students hear how they go. There written at a great level for advanced students. And, it’s been really fun to try and get them sounding as good as I can. Learning all the studio techniques is a continual process of discovery, and there’s always a curly line or two in each arrangement, so it’s always a blast trying to find the best take(s) on each sax to hopefully blend together coherently.

How many have you completed?

Five finished with a few more to go. I really love the craftsmanship of the lines and the beautiful addition of the new material in them. Ted’s love of jazz and the depth of his knowledge of the genre comes to the fore in these, and there’s the unmistakable infectious Ted-isms throughout the pieces that just makes me smile. The whole-tone scales and arpeggios, the clever reharmonisations and ‘singable’ melodies to name just a few of Ted’s signature moves.

Challenges?

The biggest challenge has been jumping between the saxes. I try to do the whole piece in one sitting, starting with the baritone and moving up the horns ending with the soprano, crash mixing as I go to ensure it all syncs up. Placing the baritone notes at the front of the beat has been a real challenge, as I’m used to playing near the back of the beat – too much listening and transcribing of the great Dexter Gordon I suppose. Then the rest of the horns can lay back a bit on the baritone track to hopefully make it sound ok.

How do we listen to them, and is it possible to buy the scores/parts?

You can listen to the five I’ve completed on YouTube. Harlem Nocturne, It’s You Or No-One, Dedicated To You, Young At Heart, Apocalypso. If you want to purchase the scores/parts, contact Ara Music Arts and we’ll hook you up with Ted. I’m not sure of the cost of them. I reckon they’re worth their weight in gold, but Ted’ll probably let you have each one for the price of a couple decent bottles of vino. Hope you get as much enjoyment out of listening to them as I’ve had playing them. 

New Manager of Performing Arts - Richard Marrett

26 Aug 2016
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Ara Music Arts welcomes Richard Marrett as its new Manager of Performing Arts.

Richard is well-known throughout New Zealand as a musical director and is also an accomplished pianist, arranger and composer. He has been on the staff of Ara for nine years, and for most of that time was leading the NASDA programme as a principal lecturer; many years prior, he taught the vocalists at Music Arts. He has a BMus from Victoria University of Wellington, an LRSM diploma and recently completed the MA (Music) qualification through Wintec.

A sought-after teacher and vocal coach, Richard has conducted and arranged for Christchurch Symphony, Wellington Sinfonia, Showbiz Christchurch, The Court Theatre, Wellington Musical Theatre, ARTCO, Dunedin Operatic, Invercargill Musical Theatre, The Orpheus Choir and the Choral Federation. Several of his orchestrations have been recorded with the NZSO and he has worked extensively as producer and arranger on a number of recording projects. His musical direction credits include some 75 different shows and his most recent project was a collaboration with the well-known Broadway singer, Liz Callaway.

Modern Etudes for Solo Trumpet - Cameron Pearce

22 Aug 2016
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Ara Music Arts tutor Cameron Pearce talks to us about his recently completed project ‘Modern Etudes for Solo Trumpet’.

What is an etude?

1. a piece of music for the practice of a point of technique.

2. a composition built on a technical motive but played for its artistic value.

Merriam-Webster

Encyclopedia Britannica

Idea

My aim was to compose a collection of solo etudes carefully crafted for jazz trumpet. These etudes would be published as a brass text. The text would come with recordings of each etude and it was my hope going into this that I could secure some “big names” in the jazz trumpet world  to get involved in this  project and record these etudes for me.

The plan was to compose etudes that were completely practical throughout for the jazz trumpeter. These new compositions would not only be technically demanding but importantly, the etudes were to be based on and inspired from jazz harmony. This was the key point of difference between my project and the many classically influenced etude books currently available and I felt that if everything came together there could be significant interest in the outcome of this project.

Writing stage

I composed the etudes off and on over a period of about six months. I found this to be a really enjoyable process which involved plenty of analysis of existing solo etudes which were predominantly classical but I was also able to look at what was already on offer for jazz musicians under the banner of “jazz etudes”. These nearly always ended up being written out improvised solo lines which could be played along to a backing track. These are a great resource but quite different to the type of pieces that I intended to create and it was encouraging to see that my compositions, once completed would be relatively unique to the jazz trumpet community.

Big names

While I was still in the middle of writing the etudes, I began contacting potential trumpeters to see if they might be interested in recording an etude or two for me. In a couple of cases the musicians were in the  “friend of a friend” category but essentially I was contacting them out of the blue and so I went into this stage with not overly high expecations but at the same time I figured I had nothing to lose.

As it turns out the response was very positive and I soon ended up with a stellar lineup of with internationally renowned, New York based, jazz trumpeters who were keen to be involved including Dave Douglas, Ingrid Jensen, Scott Wendholt, Terell Stafford and Nick Marchione.

The Bunker Studio – NYC

Once the etudes were completed and the performers confirmed, I flew to New York to record performances of the etudes at The Bunker Studio in Brooklyn.

This was an amazing studio to record in and is co-owned by New Zealander Aaron Nevezie who I played with in the New Zealand Youth Jazz Orchestra back in 1997 – sometimes it really is a small world.

That recording session was something I’ll never forget. I did my best to “play it cool” as one trumpet hero after another walked in the door to play my original compositions. It was all a bit surreal.

With the recordings all completed I returned to Christchurch where I tidied up the tracks before sending them off for mastering with Dave Cooper.

At this time I also put the finishing touches to the scores for each etude and sent them off to Michael Story who did a fantastic job designing the book.

Sher music 

With the design work complete and the audio tracks edited, mixed and mastered, all that remained was to contact potential publishing companies to see there was any interest in publishing my work.

As with the trumpeters who had come on board, I decided that I had nothing to lose and that I should aim as high as possible in regards to the quality and reputation of the publishers.

The name right at the top of my list was Sher Music Co.

Sher Music are one of the top (if not the top) publishers in the world of jazz and latin publications. Many, many key resources used at Ara Music Arts and in countless music schools worldwide come from Sher Music including the Real Book Series, the bestselling ‘The Jazz Theory Book’ by Mark Levine, ‘The Jazz Piano Book’ by Mark Levine and ‘The Jazz Musician’s Guide to Creative Practicing’ by David Berkman to name just a few.

Within a couple of hours of emailing Sher Music, I received a reply from Chuck Sher expressing interest in my book. He was going to send it around to a few people to get their opinion on it and then he’d get back to me. Chuck emailed a few days later to say that the response had been very positive and that he’d like to publish the book. I was pretty rapt.

The book ‘Modern Etudes for Solo Trumpet’ is due to be released in October, 2016. You can keep an eye you for it at www.shermusic.com

I would like to thank all of those at Ara whose support made this project possible, in particular those at the Ara Research office.

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."

The Cavell Leitch New Zealand International Jazz & Blues Festival

23 May 2016
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Here at Ara Music Arts we are extremely proud to be involved with the NZ International Blues & Jazz Festival 2016 (25-29 May). Not only are we hosting our special Anniversary Gala Concert and a 4-night 6pm series of concerts, but plenty of our tutors and graduates are performing in various acts & bands.

Here's a run-down . . . .

Ara Music Arts 6pm Series (multiple nights) featuring tutors Darren Pickering (piano), Reuben Derrick (sax), Michael Story (bass), ex-tutor Ted Meager (drums). And graduates Alice Tanner (vocals), Chris Wethey (bass), Heather Webb (guitar), Cameron Burnett (drums), Tyson Smith (guitar), Tim Sellars (drums), Glen Wagstaff (guitar), Tamara Smith (flute).

Stevie Wonder Tribute featuring tutors Kate Taylor (vocals), Gwyn Reynolds (sax). Cameron Pearce (trumpet), Darren Pickering (keys), Michael Story (bass), Andy Genge (guitar), Luke Smillie (drums). And graduate Chris Burke (sax)

Tami Neilson featuring tutor Joe McCallum (drums) - Friday 27 May, 7.30pm, Transitional Cathedral, $49.

La Petite Manouche featuring graduates Robbie Averill (guitar), Burke Goff (guitar) - Wednesday 25 May, 7pm, George Hotel, $160 (with meal).

Yellow Moon featuring tutor Harry Harrison (guitar) & graduate Justine Snelgrove (sax,flute) - Thursday 26 May, 7pm, George Hotel, $160 (with meal).

Radius featuring tutor Harry Harrison (guitar,banjo) & graduate Justine Snelgrove (sax,flute) - Friday 27 May, 7pm, George Hotel, $160 (with meal).

Hetty Kate & James Sherlock featuring tutor Michael Story (bass) - Friday 27 May, 7.30pm, The Gym, $40.

Gerard Masters featuring graduates Brett Hirst (bass), Dan Kennedy (drums), Gerard Masters (piano) - Thursday 26 May, 1pm, The Gym, $12.

Jennine Bailey graduate (vocals) - Friday 27 May, 1pm, The Gym, $12.

Late Night Jazz Slam (multiple nights) featuring tutors Darren Pickering (piano), Michael Story (bass), Luke Smillie (drums). And graduates Emma Hattaway (bass), Heather Webb (guitar), Mitch Thomas (drums), Oakley Grenell (guitar), Johnny Lawrence (bass), Tamara Smith (flute), Tyson Smith (guitar), Chris Burke (sax), Robbie Averill (guitar), Burke Goff (guitar), Tim Driver (keys), Manny Addis (guitar), Nick Bosman (bass).

Sam Blakelock - graduate profile

09 May 2016
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Q: Who are you? Where are you? What year did you graduate?

I'm Sam Blakelock, I graduated in 2011 with a double major in Jazz Guitar and Jazz Arranging. I have been living in NYC for 3 years, studying my Master of Music at Queens College and now playing around on off-broadway, hotels, and with whoever else calls me. 

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

I started out wanting to be Jack Johnson. I loved writing songs, strumming chords and recording music. I was fortunate to have Harry Harrison (Ara Music Arts teacher) teach me at my high school. Harry helped me discover jazz and encouraged me to attend jazz school.

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

My favourite part of jazz school was listening to students older than me perform. They pushed me to improve (fast) and inspired me. There we so many killing musicians one to four years above me, and I would walk past those two pictures on the stairs everyday of the "Jazz School All Stars" and think, "Damn, I got a lot of practicing to do."

Connecting with other musicians and performing around town was a big plus. The teachers were awesome of course, and it’s always a thrill attending workshops from visiting artists. I remember being so inspired (and equally intimidated) when David Berkman gave his workshops. I was lucky to spend 18 months over here in NYC learning from David who has had an enormous impact on my music.

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

I tweeted Snarky Puppy and convinced Jazz School to fly Michael League over to Christchurch for workshops. Mike's a super lovely guy and It was in incredible honour to perform him in Christchurch. I'm very thankful to have been able to stay in touch with him in NYC. I have performed with Perez Hitlon for six months in an off-broadway show Full House the Musical Parody, MD'd cruise ship bands, played live on Brooklyn BRICtv, and performed at Brooklyn Bowl.

Q: What is your fondest memory of Jazz school (Ara Music Arts)? 

I can't decide between

A) Heating up my pasta in the microwave everyday for 4 years.

B) Sleeping behind a piano over night

C) Late night jams in the auditorium

I'm going to go with:

D) Meeting so many amazing musicians and making life long friends.

All Girl Big Band

20 Apr 2016
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It’s exciting to hear there’s a new big band in town. We already have vibrant community big bands like The Garden City Big Band, Sideline Swing, as well as the Symposium Ensemble that forms for larger events and festival, but it’s great to welcome another big band into the mix. What sets this ensemble apart from the rest is that it’s made up entirely of women.

I asked Kate Taylor, co-founder of the band why she had created an All Girls Big Band?

“I was chatting with Lana Law (sax player and the other co-founder) one day and

and the topic came up about Big Bands containing only women. We looked at each other and said “Could we do this in such a small city?” So we reeled off the names. And we found that we could, so we did!”

A quick google search shows a proud tradition of all-female bands dating back decades to their heyday during WW2 when swing/dance bands were in huge demand and many male players were unavailable.

In Christchurch, jazz education remains strong, and the 2015 Christchurch Youth Jazz Orchestra had a 50:50 male/female ratio. An indication the All Girls Big Band shouldn’t have to worry about recruitment in the future.

Players include current tutors of Ara Music Arts, graduates of the jazz programme, and both secondary school students and teachers.

Rehearsals are being held at Ara Music Arts, and the band has just had their first gig at The Court Theatre and have their next gig on May 20th as part of the After Work Series. The main goal is to present a Natalie Cole tribute at a festival in the near future. 

Ara celebrates - 25 years

19 Apr 2016
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In 2011 Ara Music Arts was due to celebrate its 20th birthday. As for many 20 year olds a party was in order with live music and lots of catch-ups with old friends and family.

February 22nd rolled around (excuse the pun) and Mother Nature had other plans for us. Over the next few years the school worked through building changes and continuous rumbles only to grow in strength and determination of bringing live music back to the central city.

2016 brings the 25th anniversary of Ara Music Arts and the celebrations have already begun.

In conjunction with The Cavell Leitch International Jazz and Blues festival Ara Music arts will kick off the festival with a gala concert held at the beautifully restored Theatre Royal on May 25th at 730pm.

Celebrating 25 years of Jazz education in Christchurch this concert brings together a stunning array of graduates, staff and current students in what promises to be a night of celebration not to be missed.

Founded in 1991,and formally known as the Jazz school, Ara Music Arts has played a major part in the musical life of the city, through its training of many musicians, and performances at its facilities in High Street.

With alumni scattered around the globe, coming together for this special performance will be well known graduates now firmly established in Australia – Gerard Masters, Brett Hirst, Dan Kennedy, Susan De Jong and Oakley Grenell. Founding tutors Doug Caldwell, Bob Heinz, Ted Meager and Tom Rainey will perform, along with current students.

Other contributors include Gwyn Reynolds, Scott Taitoko, Andy Genge, Johnny Lawrence, Cam Pearce, Darren Pickering, Harry Harrison, Michael Story, and singers Kate Taylor, Anna Whitaker, Jennine Bailey and Juliet Reynolds Midgley.

Special performances by Oval Office, Departure Lounge, LA Mitchell and the Nativa Band, and Muklisa featuring Tim Sellars, Glenn Wagstaff, Tamara Smith and Tyson smith will round out to what promises to be a unique and special evening.

Events will be held throughout the year with performances in conjunction with The Big Band festival in October.

Jazz school has been a second home to many of the performers around Christchurch. It will be honour to celebrate this fine establishment and the education, top quality performers, arrangers and singer/songwriters it continues to deliver.