Marilyn leaves on high note
Just try and keep Marilyn Baigent away.
The head of Aotea College’s music department for 34 years, Baigent had more than her fair share of farewells in the past fortnight after she announced last month that it was time to retire.
‘‘I came here in 1981, after three and a half years teaching music and English in London,’’ she recalled.
‘‘I grew up in Titahi Bay and although I’d taught elsewhere in New Zealand, being offered the head of department job here was just brilliant.’’
Inspired by her work in London, Baigent established the choir and barbershop programme that put Aotea on the musical map. National awards have flowed into the school and Agent Baigent or Queen B has been at the forefront of it all.
Her partnership with tutor and barbershop director David Brooks has been a fruitful one, but it is hard to tie Baigent down for a particular highlight.
‘‘There have been so many highlights. The teamwork we have here at Aotea, the connections with the community, and working with these wonderful young people, seeing them become so confident – that has been the real rewards. The students have always inspired me with their creative energy.’’
One occasion that does stick in her memory is the performance of Malaga at Te Rauparaha Arena in 2009. It bought three schools together and Baigent said the support of the Aotea College board of trustees, who gave the green light to the $100,000 production, was crucial.
Student Anastasia Seumanutafa said Baigent pushed them to succeed and was there with encouragement, makeup and food at key moments during competitions.
‘‘She would pick us up from home and you could have heartto-heart talks with her – she was more than a teacher,’’ she said.
Brooks said Baigent’s absence would be keenly felt, both professionally and in giving the music department an inviting, family feel.
‘‘Marilyn made things happen,’’ he said. ‘‘If she sees something as valuable, she will pursue it, working well beyond the 9am-3pm school hours.’’
Aotea College principal Kate Gainsford said usually about 10 per cent of the school’s students were involved in music and Baigent’s ability to connect with them was outstanding. The past few weeks have seen messages coming in from all over the country, and the world, to acknowledge Baigent’s departure, Gainsford said.
‘‘Her commitment in walking alongside and supporting her students is amazing,’’ she said. ‘‘There’s no doubt Porirua and the arts community have benefited from her unceasing commitment to these talented young people.’’
Baigent said this is not goodbye. She is looking forward to travelling, especially back to London, and becoming a grandmother for the first time in May.
‘‘I’ll be around, you can’t just switch it all off after this many years. I’m available when they [Aotea] need me and I want to stay involved in the amazing music community in Porirua.’’
She said the planned performing arts centre at the college would be a bountiful facility for Aotea College and Porirua as a whole, and she would be there on opening night.
Marilyn Baigent in an oft-seen spot in Aotea College’s music department – at the piano. With her are students, from left, Melissa Bailey, Anastasia Seumanutafa, Seta Leasi and Juanita Leynes.