Tess Nichol is the Consumer Affairs reporter for the Herald.

Auckland high schoolers ready to Stand Up, Stand Out

Emeline Mafi is about to perform in front of hundreds of people, but Aorere College's head girl says she's not nervous.

The 18-year-old is singing opera in the final of this year's Stand Up Stand Out high school talent competition at the Vodafone Events Centre in Manukau tonight.

Mafi only discovered her powerful voice by accident three years ago when her dad, a church choir leader, asked her to sing him a melody to help him put together a composition.

"It was out of the blue. One evening he asked me to come sing a melody for him because I play trumpet so I can sight read. I sang the melody [and] we just looked at each other shocked," she told the Herald.

In the years since, Mafi has fostered her natural talent, with her dad telling her "you can't neglect the gift".

Despite being up against some of the most talented young people in Auckland Mafi said, for her, it wasn't about winning.

"I just feel like you can't judge art and that people will watch from their own point of view and their own level of perception."

Mafi said she thought singing opera set her apart from other solo vocalists in tonight's competition.

"It is mostly a pop competition, so standing up and standing out - you do get noticed."

Every year for the past nine years, Stand Up Stand Out has attracted hundreds of high schoolers from around Auckland eager to break into the music and dance industries.

Nearly 700 students entered this year, competing in five different categories: solo and group vocal, solo instrumental, band and dance.

Those who had made it through the heats and semifinals were competing for one-on-one mentoring sessions with industry veterans as well as $6000 in prizes.

Finalists whose performances had made it on to social media this year had blown people away, with thousands of likes, comments and Facebook shares.

Auckland Council programme leader Gene Rivers said people's reactions online didn't surprise him, as it was "no secret" South Auckland was a hub for raw talent.

"It's extraordinary. It's always a surprise when people see Stand Up Stand Out for the first time and the level of talent involved."

The bar for Stand Up Stand Out competitors was set extremely high, Rivers said, elevating expectations above what were usually associated with high school competitions.

Recording opportunities at the Otara Music Arts Centre - a "hub" for Maori and Pacific music in Auckland - were part of what associated the competition with excellence, Rivers said.

Winners would record original songs at the centre with the guidance of their mentors, with the songs hosted online.

Council events, like Waitangi and Matariki festivals, were also common places for Stand Up Stand Out alumni to get the chance to perform - a gateway to professional performances.

"It's all about trying to prepare these kids while they're still in high school for the industry and give them as much experience as we can."

Tickets to the event, which Rivers expected would attract at least 1500 people, are $5 on the door. The show will start at 6.30pm and run for three hours.

- NZ Herald

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