Gift of music is true success

By Vaimoana Tapaleao

Violinist who gave up a concert career to help children gets a buzz from sharing the joy

Joe Harrop says children in his classes learn as a team about music, which they can only play when they work together. Photo / Kellie Blizard
Joe Harrop says children in his classes learn as a team about music, which they can only play when they work together. Photo / Kellie Blizard

Teaching classical music to schoolchildren in Otara has been the highlight of violinist Joe Harrop's career.

"I could easily have gone and played in an orchestra, but this was an opportunity to give back to the community," he said.

Dr Harrop is one of six people honoured as Blake Leaders in this year's Sir Peter Blake Leadership Awards.

The 35-year-old grew up in Auckland and is a proud old boy of Sacred Heart College. He studied the violin at the University of Auckland and in Germany, and gained a masters degree and PhD at the Royal Academy of Music in London.

In 2011, he turned his back on an increasingly successful career in the United Kingdom and came home to become programme director for the Sistema Aotearoa programme.

The programme has been going for three years and teaches students from primary schools around South Auckland the violin or cello.

The free lessons are led by Dr Harrop at the Otara Music Arts Centre, and are held after school and in the holidays.

Dr Harrop said the programme - an Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra and Ministry for Culture and Heritage partnership - had helped hundreds of students and their families by providing a new skill and, therefore, aspiration.

Dr Harrop, who is part Samoan, acknowledged that instruments such as the violin and cello were rarely seen among Pacific Island families.

"It's giving these kids and their families a little bit of life that they normally wouldn't have seen otherwise. That's the buzz - seeing the kids getting it and getting the same joy that I got out of playing music.

"The kids are learning as a team. They're learning an instrument and learning about music, which they can only play when they work together."

The programme is based on the worldwide Sistema music movement for young children, which originated in Venezuela in 1975.

Dr Harrop said it was an honour to be named in this year's Sir Peter Blake Leadership Awards and that for him, a leader was someone able to draw out the best from others.

"I think being a leader is about being an enabler. It's someone who enables people to do their best in a team environment or in an organisation.

"You're going to have strengths and weaknesses in any organisation and it's making sure that people are able to put their strengths forward - it's about empowering others to do well."


Blake Leaders

• This week the Herald profiles the six 2013 Blake Leaders.

• Tomorrow: The last profile, Tamatea High School principal Nicola Ngarewa.

- NZ Herald

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