Sing, drum, strum: Music groups for the family

By Danielle Wright

With such diverse music classes available, there's no excuse not to get into it, and as Danielle Wright discovers, they all share one thing: people with huge smiles on their faces.

The Auckland Regional Drumline, home of NZ marching percussion, is currently recruiting. Photo / Supplied
The Auckland Regional Drumline, home of NZ marching percussion, is currently recruiting. Photo / Supplied

After work or on a rainy weekend, many people sit in front of televisions, watching shows they can't stand. But there are some passionate people out there who, instead, bang on drums, blow on bagpipes and sing their hearts out before bed. It seems a much more interesting way to spend your time off, sometimes with life-changing results. Here are some of the options.

RAISE YOUR VOICE

There are many options to train your voice - from structured private singing lessons to find-your-voice workshops and choirs (barbershops to sea shanties).

Max Maxwell, Sing for Joy

Max Maxwell's Sing for Joy choir is on during school term on Tuesdays at St Leo's Hall in Devonport and Wednesdays at Mt Eden Normal School Hall - both from 7.30pm. Cost is $12 casual/ $75 for 10 weeks. Ph 027 264 4240.

When I visit the Devonport Sing for Joy session, around 40 singers are enjoying the singing so much they forgo the tea break in favour of more.

There are Latin tunes, African rhythms and Kiwi favourites - it's an eclectic choir and the room is divided into soprano, alto, tenor and bass.

Maxwell practises with each group individually and then together as a choir, with beautiful results.

"Max is very inclusive," says one choir member, Catherine O'Brien. "As far as I know he hasn't ever kicked anyone out, no matter how tone deaf."

One man, Jason Sutcliffe is noticeably good. "He had never sung before coming here," says Maxwell's wife Emmy Spijker, who makes sure everyone feels welcome and encourages the less confident to keep trying.

"I see people really blossom through singing, it can be life-changing," says Maxwell. "It's amazing how opening up your voice can give you confidence to speak out in other areas of your life."

Also try:

* Glee Club for 8-14 year olds at the Parnell Trust, $180 for six weeks. No prior singing or dancing skills required. No classes this semester, but keep in touch. Ph (09) 555 5194. For expert tuition, visit Frances Dickinson's Sing School. Ph (09) 446 3211.

* City of Sails Barbershop Chorus meets at Balmoral Bowls Club, Mt Eden, or try SouthCity Soundz, a women's barbershop, rickngail@xtra.co.nz.

* The Maritime Crew, specialising in sea songs and shanties, perform at National Maritime Museum. Enquire at their website.

GUITAR HEROES

One advantage of it being tough for New Zealand musicians to make money from their music is that many teach in their spare time. I remember watching Avalanche City perform and a kid walked past and said: "That's my old guitar teacher ... that's Dave!" Get your lessons booked before the good ones head overseas.

SCHOOL OF FOLK

Alex Borwick (School of Folk) for guitar, piano/keyboard, 4&5-string banjo, ukulele, trombone, mandolin and music theory from his studio in Devonport. $60 per hour.

Ph 027 415 2709, or email schooloffolk@gmail.com.

An accomplished musician in his own right, Alex Borwick encourages a holistic approach to being a musician and says: "I feel it's really important to encourage students to perform with others and on their own; to find their inspiration, and foster their own creativity."

Borwick's tuition is one-to-one and tailored to the individual student. He teaches my husband and son and it's a great bonding experience, as well as the only class our six-year-old never tries to wriggle out of.

Also try:

* Musiq Hub for everything from guitar and ukulele to violin and trumpet, or even a course of band mentoring.

* Inga at Guitar Coach, ph (09) 412 2029.

* Rock School holiday programme: $125 for one day or $395 for three, see here.

PIPE DREAMS

Join a band and you often have access to expert tuition, at no or low cost, as well as the chance to perform in public and attend high-profile events. Many also offer the chance to forge ties with another culture.

City of Auckland Pipe Band

The City of Auckland Pipe Band practices on Thursdays at Mt Albert Grammar School - learner tuition from 6.30pm, band practice at 7.30pm. It's free for learners, but an annual band subscription is required for full band members. Ph 0274 872 924.

The City of Auckland Pipe Band's website has a simple message: You don't have to be Scottish, or like haggis, but you do have to wear a kilt!

But, many members of the City of Auckland Pipe Band do have ties to Scotland and many joined the band to keep that link alive. Others came to it from kit drumming, looking for something more difficult.

"People who join a pipe band are generally more intellectual than in other bands, we're driven, ambitious and sophisticated," says Pipe Sergeant and Secretary, Robert Halliday.

The pipe band scene revolves around the summer Highland Games, building up to the Nationals. There are also performances and events such as the Rugby World Cup, St Patrick's Day, Christmas Parades and the biggest day of the year, Anzac Day, which, for a pipe band, starts at 3am.

I meet many generations together at practice night and the club encourages families to join. There's even a camp during the year. Band members teach learners and it takes about 1-2 years to move from beginner to being a member of the band, or six months if you're particularly keen.

Their next big event is Celtic Rhythms on July 21 at the Selwyn Theatre, Selwyn College - see the band's website for details. It's a 70th anniversary celebration of the band, first established in 1942.

Another option is joining an orchestra, such as The Auckland Philharmonic Orchestra, which has a large education programme including Tunes 4 Toddlers and the annual orchestral summer school for young musicians.

Many musicians in the orchestra teach through private lessons or at schools. Contact Richard Betts for details, ph (09) 638 6266 ext 210.

A DIFFERENT BEAT

Every instrument offers many ways to play it and drums are no exception - from drum lines to pipe bands and even African hand-drumming:

Drumtalk African hand drumming is on Thursdays at St Columba Church, 92 Surrey Cres, Grey Lynn - starts at 6pm, with African dancing at 7.30pm. Cost is $100 for six weeks or $20 per class. Ph (09) 846 9663.

In a beautiful old church in Grey Lynn, a barefoot Jimi Dale leads around 15 African hand drummers in a version of The Baga Woman, which says: "Does she dance the dance, or does she not dance the dance, hey!"

At the end of drumming practice, they do all get up and have a dance. Right now though, they're lost in the thumping beat they're creating together. It looks very therapeutic.

I'm sitting next to Ross Pilcher, who had never drummed before joining the African drumming class. He does well to keep up with the beat in a kind of drumming game of "Simon says" where Dale creates a rhythm and everyone else attempts to repeat it.

Also try:

The Auckland Regional Drumline, the home of NZ marching percussion, currently recruiting. A Drumming Academy for ages 12+ is currently seeking new faces - no experience needed, $60pa registration fees and free tuition. Or check out clinics with world leader Jeff Queen for a one-off clinic at the Otara Music & Arts Centre, Saturday July 14. Follow on Facebook. Cost is free, but there's a joining fee and annual registration. Ph (09) 267 1020.

SPINNING A TUNE

Even if you can't play an instrument, you can still be involved in music. The Music and Audio Institute of New Zealand offers a 24-hour DJ course, as well as introductory courses on home recording, songwriting and lyric-writing seminars.

The Beginners DJ course runs for three hours, two nights per week, for four weeks. Students learn beat mixing/juggling, scratching, CD-mixing and event management. Next course starts 12 June-5 July on Tuesday and Thursday nights - cost is $60 (domestic students). Ph (09) 379 3819, see here.

MUSIC EVENTS

* The South Pacific and New Zealand Accordion Championships and Festival 2012. Saturday and Sunday 3rd June, 9-4pm.

* Raye Freedman Arts Centre, Epsom Girls Grammar School, Silver Road, Epsom. Time: Sat 9am-4pm, Sun 9.30am- 4pm.

* The best of the South Pacific Championships and international contestants with a rousing Finale Concert (Sun 2.30pm-4pm). See here.

- NZ Herald

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