Children flock to youth orchestra
Liz Sneyd, the driving force behind the Virtuoso Strings Orchestra, could barely be heard above the din of violin tuning and the excited chatter of about 80 children at Cannons Creek Hall last Wednesday.
The noise was brought to a halt by a loud wolf whistle from mother and volunteer Nikki Tamaiva. Then it was bows in the air, and straight into the first song of rehearsal for Katie’s Waltz.
For a youth and community orchestra that has only been running in its present form for just over a year, the 4 to 15-year-olds were impressive.
Sneyd and husband Craig Utting set up a music programme for decile 1 schools in Porirua last year.
Pupils are given free string instruments, free music tuition and a chance to be a part of the orchestra.
Their numbers have swelled from 17 to 80, and Sneyd said they were at a point where they could hardly keep up with demand – children are hassling their parents to get them there and telling their friends they should join, too.
‘‘A lot of these schemes are presented as social programmes, and of course that is one huge motivator.
‘‘But what we like to dwell on is the phenomenal talent around rather than ‘ Oh, these poor kids’,’’ Sneyd said.
‘‘Music in Wellington in five, 10 years’ time, will look way different if some of those kids are nurtured.’’
Tamaiva now has all four of her children in the orchestra – three violinists and a cellist – after she saw the impact it was having on her 11- year- old, Erana.
At first there was discordant screeching, but they quickly got past it.
‘‘ My husband just kept encouraging them, telling them to take the opportunities that are given to them,’’ she said.
Erana has now set her sights on going to university on scholarship and studying music.
Before the orchestra, the children had been exposed only to Cook Island cultural music, and had not been given a chance to learn an instrument, Tamaiva said.
‘‘ Lessons are expensive for starters. Here in Porirua that’s just a dream. You might watch the symphony orchestra on a school trip, but that’s about it – nobody gives you a chance to learn violin.’’
Erana said it was all about practice.
‘‘It’s practice, practice. Sometimes two times a day for an hour or more.
‘‘I enjoy practising, I enjoying playing and listening to it. I enjoy listening for the first time, not knowing it, and then when I learn it, I like hearing the huge difference.’’
Her sister Tiare, 14, loves that family atmosphere of the orchestra, and the music.
‘‘It put me to sleep, but in a good way,’’ she said. ‘‘The music was soothing and beautiful.’’
Family affair: Four Tamaiva brothers and sisters who play together at the kids and community orchestra, from left, Francois, 9, violin, Tiare, 14, cello, Erana, 11, violin, and Lina, 5, violin.