Aotea music teacher honoured
Marilyn Baigent is the first to shy away from any limelight – but this time there was no escaping.
The Aotea College head of music has built one of the strongest barbershop programmes in the country since 2000.
With barbershop coach David Brooks, Aotea College has dominated in recent times, with quartets and chorus groups winning four of the past six national titles and a quartet that won the International Rising Star contest in 2011.
On May 22, at the Wellington barbershop regional finals in Lower Hutt, Baigent was honoured for her service with the Young Women in Harmony award. Typically, she wanted to deflect praise to others but Brooks was having none of it.
‘‘Often, people like myself and Charlotte Murray [Tawa College], who are conductors, win these awards,’’ he said.
‘‘But it is so fitting that Marilyn has won it this year because of her amazing contribution and all the work she does at Aotea.
‘‘It’s the other side of barbershop and chorus – the managing, supporting, taking groups to nationals and overseas, administration, talking with parents, fundraising – that she does that is so important.
‘‘ Marilyn has created an extraordinary family environment for students and we are lucky to have her.’’
To top off Baigent’s big night, Aotea’s quartets (AC Times and MarvelUs) won the boys and girls sections (another quartet, Take Four, placed third in the girls) and were second to Tawa College in the boys and girls chorus.
Baigent said the recent competition with Tawa and Kapiti colleges was healthy for music in the region.
‘‘It’s a very positive atmosphere and getting harder every year, a good thing. Most of all, everyone’s having fun.’’
Aotea College has 110 students, out of a roll of 950, taking part in girls and boys chorus and up to 10 quartets a year. It is a central part of Aotea’s music curriculum.
Baigent and Brooks said barbershop was a challenge to teach, with the different singers each year providing different strengths and weaknesses, but that the students’ enthusiasm was infectious.
Baigent said barbershop instilled discipline, commitment and teamwork, raised selfesteem and taught young people to perform to large audiences.
‘‘One of my favourite things about it is the way it creates interaction with community. I love that.’’
Second mother: Marilyn Baigent, centre, with the Aotea College singers, who say she is like a family member. Clockwise from left, Sina Esera, Daena Sissons, Kishan Thanawala, Stephen O’Connell, Evander Seiuli, Julian Wright, Anastasia Leuluai, Anastasia Seumanutafa, Roseta Leasi and Juanita Leynes.