Support for arts taps into talent and stokes success

Issue: Volume 97, Number 13

Posted: 30 July 2018
Reference #: 1H9jiC

South Auckland has produced plenty of stars in music, dance and other arts, but just being in the grounds of Manurewa High School for a few minutes shows that’s no surprise. At lunchtime and in between classes, the students are singing, making music and busting moves everywhere.

It’s joyful and they obviously love doing it, but it is not just fun and frivolity.

The school is committed to the arts as a vital part of the curriculum, with music, dance and performance being supported because they help student achievement in other subjects, and teach skills that can lead to a career.

The school is the biggest in the area and has 2,000 students, most being from Pacific or Māori cultural backgrounds. Around 500 study music and 300 study dance.

Every day the music department’s building is buzzing with students in different rooms having band practice, harmonising, playing instruments including brass, polishing choral arrangements, or working on vocals in the recording studio.

There is so much talent that “Manurewa is the arts capital of New Zealand”, according to Head of Music Tim Randle. What has emerged is just the tip of an iceberg, he says.

Tim and his team of five music teachers have a proud record of success, producing nine national finalists across Smokefree Rockquest and Smokefree Tangata Beats as well as numerous Lion Foundation Songwriting Competition finalists.

One of the most recent successes is Sonatane Kaufusi, a Year 13 student, who was a winner at 2017 Smokefree Rockquest. He sings, writes and plays guitar and keyboards. His first single, “Birdie” complete with video, has already had 350,000 downloads on Spotify. Watch it here(external link) 

Sonatane says, “I’ve been strongly supported by the school and taken every opportunity that’s been offered. The teachers have been really interactive with me, as they are with other students.”

Tim says, “We stoke the fire. We push people and the opportunities come up inevitably, and after a while it becomes self-fulfilling.”

The teachers are passionate but also bring ideas, suggestions, contacts and knowledge of opportunities to the table. “There’ve been heaps of times he’s entered me in competitions I hadn’t even heard of,” Sonatane says.

Tim says collaboration and active partnership between music teachers and students is vital. “Pacific people are very humble and can be reserved about putting themselves forward. It’s easier for me to step in and spark collaboration than it would be for Sonatane by himself.”

Thinking outside the box

Sonatane says, “They’ve taught me to think outside the box, for example learning about the importance of managing money and finances for a music career.”

He clearly has the talent for a music career once he graduates, but is currently aiming to become a teacher.

Dance is also strong at the school and the most recent high-profile achievement was a sensational performance by their hip hop dance crew called Rewa All Stars at the national Hip Hop Championships, where they placed second. The video went viral(external link)

Tim says, “We are systematic and comprehensive in supporting our talented students, enhancing their skills and putting them in touch with opportunities.

“Our co-curricular activities are massive for academic achievement. Last year, by entering the Smokefree Rockquest competition, students earned 12 credits.

“Success in music can contribute to wider success across curriculum boundaries. We are very much in favour of STEAM instead of STEM, with the arts contributing so much to the creative process. Speaking holistically, the arts also can help so much in self-confidence and in creating a sense of self-worth.”

Principal Pete Jones says, “We aim to find the thing that each student is passionate about, and cultivate it.”

He says that for each individual, the curriculum path is put together for NCEA in a flexible and personalised way.

“We begin at the start of each year by finding what their strengths are. If for example their strength is performance, we will look to the NCEA standards that are relevant and focus on that.

“Moving forward, if the students are putting on a show involving music, dance and performance, then that could relate to every part of the curriculum. We want more cross-curricular development and there are lots of ways to find connections.”

Sonatane is also a member of the band Mit Eldner which won top spot in the 2018 Auckland region final of Smokefree Tangata Beats. The national final is in September. 

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero,

Posted: 9:00 am, 30 July 2018

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