From where I sit: A Social Experiment or the World as it Should Be?

The Chamber Music NZ office team is a vibrant and busy one filled with people who love music. So, unsurprisingly, life outside of work is often filled with music. Case and point is our fabulous Education and Outreach Co-ordinator, Sue Jane, who not only plays violin in the Tawa Community Orchestra but also volunteers for the inspirational initiative, Virtuoso Strings.

What is Virtuoso Strings? How about we let Sue tell you all about it… 


 

“Music can change the world because it can change people.” Bono, U2

Sue Jane -- CMNZ Programme Co-ordinator, Education and Outreach

Sue Jane — CMNZ Programme Co-ordinator, Education and Outreach

Recently I’ve had the fun and privilege of being asked to help with a big-hearted project that I believe really is helping to change the lives of many people in all sorts of positive and interesting ways:

What: Virtuoso Strings Charitable Trust Demonstration Concert
When: Saturday 1 November at 3.00pm
Where: Te Rauparaha Arena, Porirua

A wee bit of background:  Dr Elizabeth Sneyd (violinist) and husband, Craig Utting (composer, pianist, violist) are instrument importers and music teachers in North Wellington. They have a large, talented and eclectic family who are all heavily involved in the Wellington music scene – as well as being pretty groovy kids really!  My association with this vibrant bunch has been through their help with the Tawa Community Orchestra which I play in, Craig’s involvement with the NZCT Chamber Music Contest as Composition Coach for the last two years, and the whole family’s ongoing interest in chamber music… well, any music really!

Over the last couple of years Elizabeth has been involved in the set-up of the Virtuoso Strings Charitable Trust. Through this Trust Elizabeth and Craig, and a number of dedicated volunteers, provide free instruments and ongoing free music tuition to students at decile one schools in Porirua. Their over-arching aim is to be ‘inclusive’ in every sense of the word and being committed to nurturing the stunning natural talent within the Porirua community.

And they don’t believe in limiting their vision! This concert at the Te Rauparaha Arena will be in a space that can easily seat 2000 people and there will be at least 100 young string performers and 30+ community players helping out.  This is Big Picture stuff!

Talking to Liz Sneyd is infectious: “We’re going to pack this place out and rock the house!”

Me (left) with Liz Sneyd measuring up for the outfit that we will all be wearing… all part of the inclusivity: no-one will stand out from anyone else. These outfits are being sewn by yet more dedicated volunteers and parents.

Me (left) with Liz Sneyd measuring up for the outfit that we will all be wearing… all part of the inclusivity: no-one will stand out from anyone else. These outfits are being sewn by yet more dedicated volunteers and parents.

Rehearsals have started in earnest, and last weekend was the first time that the community musicians got together, received their (large) folder of music and got playing – with the help of some dedicated wee musicians from Canons Creek and their families… who also brought biscuits! Community spirit at its best.

We immediately felt enveloped by the vibrancy of this project and Liz and Craig’s attention to inclusivity – especially when it came to introducing their young music students and positive reinforcement and humour.  Our first rehearsal  was a happy cacophony of sound, the occasional groan but chiefly laughter!

Andrew Atkins – our Conductor (with Craig Utting at the piano) - getting our first rehearsal underway.

Andrew Atkins – our Conductor (with Craig Utting at the piano) – getting our first rehearsal under-way.

The concert will be conducted by Andrew Atkins, an up-and-coming conductor and pianist who is currently completing an Honours Music degree at the New Zealand School of Music, Victoria University. Andrew also conducts the Tawa Community Orchestra, and has had a number of rehearsals with the students at their Canons Creek practices. He’s already a hit – evidently the young musicians love the way his hair moves when he conducts!

Only yesterday I had the good fortune to be sitting next to a gentleman in a hospital waiting room, and we got talking (as you do).  He has four children and they will all be playing on Saturday 1 November.  He is intensely proud of how well his kids play and is very protective of the Virtuoso Strings Project.

We parted as friends with our shared joy of playing the violin and music-making breaking down those pesky societal barriers.  We promised to catch up with each other at the next rehearsal…

– Sue, 24.10.2014

Virtuosa Strings 3

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