Saxophonist and Music Educator Simon Brew is currently Director of Music for the Royal New Zealand Air Force Band. He has been a contract player for the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, Rotterdam Philharmonic, Auckland Philharmonia and the Netherlands Blazers Ensemble.
Simon took part in our recent collaboration with Mahinawa Specialist School, where he worked with Julian Raphael and other community musicians to perform with the students in a special concert at Pataka Art + Museum.
In September I had the great privilege of assisting in Chamber Music NZ’s Pataka Accessible Concert in collaboration with Julian Raphael. In the lead-up to the main concert, I had the chance to work with students from Mahinawa Specialist School: we sang, played drums, and had a fantastic time.
Whilst I was obviously excited about being invited to be a part of the project, I also had a level of uncertainty and apprehension – what should play? What questions will they ask? Do I just play, or also give a talk about music?
My questions and uncertainty were immediately put to rest in the first session, when I realised I was working with the truly masterful Julian Raphael, who seemed to guide the eager students from song to song with ease. The driving rhythms and catchy tunes – unfamiliar to me in the first session – surprisingly brought enjoyment not only to the students but also to me personally. The room was full of energy, with some students taking the chance to dance whilst others were content to play their drums or clap along.
In the second session, the focus moved from drumming to more singing with Julian leading from the guitar. At this point I need to confess that what transpired was a truly moving musical experience. The communication and interweaving of the vocals with my improvised saxophone lines was at times meditative and at other times downright raucous. I could feel the mood in the room undulate as the students fed off the musical collaboration that was happening.
After the session it was clear to me that Julian and I had had the same experience – one of those musical moments where something very special had happened. This was something I was not expecting at all, a feeling that you can’t just create, but one that happens in concert but only a few times in one’s career. I went back to work carrying that euphoric feeling with me for some days.
For me the sessions in the schools and the concert at Pataka Art + Museum were humbling to be a part of. Thank you to Chamber Music New Zealand for making it happen.