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Far North high school jazz ensemble place third in secondary school music festival

Kaitaia College’s Jazz Waka group received a Bronze award at the 2022 KBB Music Festival. Photo/Supplied.

The music talent at one Far North high school continues to attract praise, following a top performance by its newly formed jazz ensemble at a secondary school music contest in Auckland.

The Kaitaia College Jazz Waka group received bronze in the Symphony Orchestra and Jazz Bands division of the 2022 KBB Music Festival last week.

The almost 40-year-old festival showcases secondary school orchestras, concert bands and jazz bands from Auckland and beyond.

The performance was the first time for the Far North jazz group to compete since forming just weeks before.

The Kaitaia College Jazz Waka performing at the 2022 KBB Music Festival in Auckland. Photo/Supplied.
The Kaitaia College Jazz Waka performing at the 2022 KBB Music Festival in Auckland. Photo/Supplied.

Kaitaia College was the only Northland school to participate in the festival under the direction of newly appointed Head of Arts and Music teacher Dr Opeloge Ah Sam.

Ah Sam said the group of 14 was the competition’s smallest and did well to compete against schools with more resources, more funding and more focus on arts and music.

“We gained a bronze award, which equalled some of the more experienced and fancied schools in the competition,” Ah Sam said.

“A special mention was also made by the judges to our three vocalists, Noah McBirney, Summer-Breeze Hoani and Waiwai Perene.

Kaitaia College Jazz Waka singer Noah McBirney. Photo/Supplied
Kaitaia College Jazz Waka singer Noah McBirney. Photo/Supplied

“Our rhythm section was also signalled out as one of the best in the competition.

“The students loved the experience and seeing the standard of other students from around the country of similar ages.”

The Jazz Waka group is made up of students aged 15 to 18 years who have only had the last six weeks to practise together.

Kaitaia College Jazz Waka singer Summer-Breeze Hoani. Photo/Supplied
Kaitaia College Jazz Waka singer Summer-Breeze Hoani. Photo/Supplied

For the competition, they performed ‘E te Ariki, ‘On Broadway’, ‘Ain’t No Sunshine’ and ‘Spain’.

Ah Sam said there were a lot of famous jazz pieces that mainstream audiences were starting to recognise as jazz and a growing number of jazz festivals around New Zealand.

From here, Jazz Waka would start to prepare for their next performances and was even considering international opportunities.

Kaitaia College Year 13 student Waiwai Perene singing as part of the Jazz Waka group. Photo/Supplied
Kaitaia College Year 13 student Waiwai Perene singing as part of the Jazz Waka group. Photo/Supplied

“We’re working towards an even better result next year and are preparing to perform at the upcoming Pasifika Festival.

“There has already been an invite to attend a jazz event in Brisbane and Samoa to consider.

“But our most immediate goal is to keep the momentum going and keep building the group in terms of numbers and other instruments.”

The KBB Music Festival is administered by the Auckland Secondary Schools Music Festival Trust and is run by a wider committee of volunteers known as the KBB Music Festival Committee.

The Festival began with a few schools combining for performances and has since grown in both size and stature.

Groups perform in professional venues, competing for awards and a place in the gala concerts.

The Kaitaia College Jazz Waka performed songs like 'Aint' No Sunshine' at the festival Photo/Supplied.
The Kaitaia College Jazz Waka performed songs like ‘Aint’ No Sunshine’ at the festival Photo/Supplied.

“Since 1983, the KBB Festival has attracted many of New Zealand’s finest young musicians performing in secondary school orchestras, concert bands, jazz bands and chamber orchestras from within the Auckland region,” said Chairperson Trevor Thwaites on the KBB Music Festival website.

“From the small numbers in the original Auckland Secondary Schools Band and Orchestra Festival, the KBB Music Festival has now grown to see over 4,500 students in 145 groups taking part from more than 50 schools across the greater Auckland region and beyond.”

Ah Sam wished to acknowledge the continued support of friends and local businesses like Kaitaia Plumbing who helped the students get to the KBB Music Festival this year.

The Kaitaia College Jazz Waka group will perform at the upcoming Pasifika Festival in November.


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