Medal for ser­vice to mu­sic

Kapi-Mana News - - NEWS - By TALIA CARLISLE

Queen’s Birth­day honours re­cip­i­ents Craig Ut­ting and El­iz­a­beth Sneyd were deemed mad to of­fer free mu­sic tu­ition in Porirua’s low-decile schools.

Now their Vir­tu­oso Strings Orches­tra, based in Can­nons Creek, has 130 per­form­ers rang­ing from preschool­ers to pen­sion­ers.

The Tawa mu­sic teach­ers nearly turned down their Queen’s Ser­vice Medals for ser­vices to mu­sic ed­u­ca­tion.

The cou­ple have do­nated hun­dreds of hours of tu­ition and in­stru­ments in the past two years, but see­ing pupils’ faces light up had been re­ward enough, Sneyd said.

Ut­ting and Sneyd run the Mu­sic Learn­ing Cen­tre from their Tawa home, where they have taught thou­sands of young­sters.

Sneyd said they were par­tic­u­larly im­pressed by the abil­ity of Pa­cific Is­land stu­dents, which in­spired her to ap­proach Porirua schools and see if there was in­ter­est in free lessons.

‘‘ There’s a mas­sive gap be­tween op­por­tu­nity and tal­ent,’’ Sneyd said.

‘‘We saw fam­i­lies that re­ally strug­gled to pay for lessons – fan­tas­tic par­ents who put ev­ery penny aside for mu­sic lessons. But it was hard be­cause money only goes so far.’’

Two years ago they do­nated 17 vi­o­lins to Can­nons Creek and Windley schools and set up a pi­lot tu­ition pro­gramme.

The pro­gramme has grown to in­clude 11 schools and 100 do­nated in­stru­ments, which pupils can keep as long as they’re learn­ing and per­form­ing reg­u­larly with the Vir­tu­oso Strings Orches­tra.

‘‘ The in­ter­est has phe­nom­e­nal,’’ Sneyd said.

‘‘It started off as an ex­per­i­ment and the kids just loved it.

‘‘They were ready to soak up any­thing I taught them. It’s ex­cit­ing as a teacher when your stu­dents re­ally want to learn.’’

The Vir­tu­oso Strings Chari-

been ta­ble Trust has teamed up with Marie Eales, who runs a sim­i­lar pro­gramme of­fer­ing recorder and gui­tar lessons in Porirua schools.

The com­bined pro­gramme has in­creased pupils’ self- es­teem lev­els, re­sult­ing in less bul­ly­ing and in­creased op­ti­mism about their fu­tures. Sneyd is dis­ap­pointed how few Pa­cific Is­lan­ders made ca­reers out of clas­si­cal mu­sic.

‘‘ New Zealand is a di­verse coun­try, but there is lit­tle or no di­ver­sity in the clas­si­cal mu­sic scene.’’

Through the Vir­tu­oso Strings Orches­tra, chil­dren have per­formed at the Michael Fowler Cen­tre, mu­sic fes­ti­vals and mu­se­ums.

Photo: TALIA CARLISLE

See­ing young mu­si­cians’ faces light up has been re­ward enough for Tawa cou­ple El­iz­a­beth Sneyd and Craig Ut­ting.

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