A group of passionate music lovers are making sure that Wakatipu kids, who may not otherwise be exposed to music, grow up with the music in them.

Turn Up The Music, headed up by a charitable trust, is all out to ensure that young people, and old if necessary, don’t miss out on the opportunity to explore different genres of music and learn new instruments.

Borne out of the former Lakes Community Music School and a desire to see flailing numbers boosted, local musician and singer Emma Wilson persisted with her dream to get the music into local kids, finally attracting the backing of some big movers and shakers. These included the former chief operating officer of New Zealand Treasury Bill Moran, who co-founded Play It Strange Trust with Mike Chunn of Split Enz fame, and is also the current chair of Sport New Zealand.

Thanks to a strong group of 11 trustees, Turn Up The Music now has 40 kids taking individual music lessons and another 60 in its orchestra, choir and concert band, with a smattering of adults learning among them.

Lesson fees are kept to a minimum with the orchestra, choir and band all heavily subsidised by the trust, and scholarships available for lessons to ensure no children miss out on the opportunity.

Leading local musicians and teachers are involved, including former Dunedin Symphony Orchestra clarinet and saxophone player and violinist Natasha Kumar. She leads the programme’s ‘Small Strings’ initiative in which parents and kids can learn alongside each other. Natasha Wilson leads the choir and the ‘Small Hands’ preschool group while Claire Foster takes violin and accomplished local Earnslaw pianist Erandi Fernando also teaches.

“We start with everything from a basic recorder group for five to seven-year-olds to advanced brass, strings, keyboard and vocal lessons,” says Emma.

The trust’s keen for disused instrument donations from the community and has already received a dozen instruments from a recorder to a high-end keyboard and clarinet.

“In an ideal world every child should learn a musical instrument. It changes lives,” says Emma. “It’s a completely different way of using the brain and has proven cognitive effects, actually changing brain function. It’s almost the only activity that uses all three active, visual and auditory aspects of the brain simultaneously.”

It’s not all about unearthing future Beethovens, says Emma, who used to conduct and play tuba and trombone in brass bands in England and is married to local Wakatipu music legend Mark Wilson – the Patron of the Trust. “I love singing. I often sing at church. Music gave me a social life and friends. It’s a real world skill – an international language that you can take anywhere in the world,” she says. “Somebody can give you a keyboard, guitar, or ask you to sing, anywhere in the world and you immediately have 20 friends.”

Turn Up The Music has already attracted some top-level events, including a recent performance by the Dunedin Symphony Orchestra, with up and coming junior musical local talent showcased before several hundred people, prior to the packed out concert in Wakatipu High School auditorium.

The Benjamin Baker Quartet has also performed in local schools as part of Turn Up The Music’s outreach to local schools.

For further information, or to donate, see: www.turnupthemusic.co.nz


Edgy Chamber performers show Shotover School pupils how it’s done.

Turn Up The Music’s young Shiloh Percy shows how it’s done.

Turn Up The Music’s young Shiloh Percy shows how it’s done.