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Musicians Mentoring In Schools

Since 2001, the New Zealand Music Commission’s Musicians Mentoring Programme has connected the country’s top musical artists with emerging young talent in schools throughout New Zealand. More than 150 artists have shared their expertise in song writing, instrumental and vocal technique, recording technology and music industry insight.


On Tuesday 9 April, our senior music students were fortunate enough to have the opportunity to receive mentoring through the NZMC with local singer-songwriter, Thomas Oliver. Thomas is currently living in Berlin, Germany but grew up in Havelock North. In 2016, he won New Zealand’s most prestigious song writing award, the APRA Silver Scroll, for his song ‘If I Move To Mars’. We were lucky enough to hear this performed during assembly the same day.

The morning session was focused on composition at NCEA Levels 1-3. The girls discussed the key ingredients to a successful composition including melody, harmony, rhythm and arrangement. Together they decided what sort of music they wanted to create and by the end of the session they were playing a riff on trumpet, guitars and piano. The Level 3 girls completing the arrangement standard were then guided through a process of questions to refine their ideas and begin work on their arrangements, and Thomas showed them a great example of his own. The final session consisted mostly of Year 12 songwriters, who learnt about song structure, and how to generate and develop their ideas. This resulted in the creation of their own song with chords, melodies and lyrics. Throughout the day, Thomas emphasised the importance of understanding music theory in order to compose successfully and was an absolute inspiration for the girls.

Emily Mackie, Music Teacher


Participating students gave their feedback on the experience: 

“He helped me to change a passion and idea into a skill that I can correctly execute” – Olivia Dowley, Year 12

“He made song writing something for everyone, not just a select few” – Ella Ruddle, Year 12

“Just singing or playing something that has already been made is called a cover, but changing it by adding your own interpretations and style into an already made piece is called an arrangement” – Tracy Zeng, Year 13