From classroom to quartet

From classroom to quartet

Hutt Valley High School students, from left, George Alexopoulos, 15, Aaron Nocete, 15, and Annabelle Sik, 17, composed their own pieces. CHELSEA MCLAUGHLIN/STUFF

Imagine composing your own music from scratch, or arranging Brahms for the very first time.

Now imagine your work being performed by a string quartet right before your eyes.

That’s what Hutt Valley High School students experienced this week in the third and final session of their music residency programme.

Wellington’s Aroha String Quartet perform Hutt Valley High School students’ compositions and arrangements.  CHELSEA MCLAUGHLIN/STUFF

Spearheaded by award-winning music teacher Gary Wilby, the students worked with Wellington’s Aroha String Quartet over the course of three terms to bring their notations to life.

“We started these residences in 2015 through Chamber Music Hutt Valley who have enabled this to happen.

Hutt Valley High School music teacher Gary Wilby says the residency motivates students to write to a high level as they know they will be performed by professionals.  CHELSEA MCLAUGHLIN/STUFF

“We’ve had different ensembles each year and the idea is to have chamber music happening for school students but not just a concert.”

Wilby says rather than have a chamber group just come in and perform, the quartet – all members of the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra – works with the young composers on their own unique pieces.

“The first day was in term one and they demonstrated their instruments, different techniques, and ways to notate.”

The second term session was spent workshopping chamber music groups and rehearsing in preparation for a national music contest.

Wilby says while student knowledge varies, they write to an amazing level.

“They write to that level because they’ve got the opportunity.

“They know that they’ll write a piece and it will get performed because we’ve organised for that to happen.”

He says it sounds much better live than on a computer, and the students agree.

“These tremendous musicians just bring the music to life very quickly, they can lift a note off the page and make it sound fantastic.”

While some pieces have big changes made to them and some just little tweaks, they’re all pretty great Wilby says.

“Some of them are a heck of a lot more interesting and better than you might imagine by just looking at the page.”

As for next year, that’s funding dependent as it costs a significant amount of money to keep the programme running.

“The main thing is to get chamber musicians into schools, and into the community more often.”

Wilby was this year’s winner of the Marie Vandewart Memorial Award in recognition of his outstanding service in fostering the love of chamber music.

“One of the interesting things about that is the first recipient was my first cello teacher, so that made it quite a nice cycle.”

The Music Residency has been made possible with grants from the Hutt Valley High School Past Pupils and Friends Association, the Hutt Valley Orchestra, and the Rotary Club of Petone.

– as published on Stuff

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