Stratford highs music better than ever

By Jessie Waite

When listening to music is your earliest childhood memory - it's a sure sign that music will forever be a major part of your life.

Ex-Stratfordian Peter Jefferies knows what he's talking about when it comes to music, he's recorded, written, toured, and even played the drums and piano at the same time... and is possibly the only person in the world to do so.

Although Peter quit performing in August of 2003, he couldn't help himself when he caught up with American performer Amanda Palmer  at a vinyl store in New Plymouth last month.

Peter was Amanda's teen idol and had she been given Peter's music by a friend.

 ``Meeting her was just legendary. It was very humbling especially when I understood just how brilliant she was. I'd never played a live show acoustically in my whole life so it was a bit nerve-raking.''

Peter came to a point in his life where he didn't want to perform, he needed another path.

``I know all of this stuff. Now what do you do with a used muso? How am I going to do what I want to do?''  were questions Peter asked himself.

In 2003, Peter was selected to be part of the New Zealand Music Commission's Music Mentoring In Schools programme, which was life-changing, he says.

Nine years ago, Peter took up a teaching role at New Plymouth Boys High School, which then led to Spotswood College, Waitara High School, Coastal Taranaki School and Stratford High School.

When his Stratford students walk into his classroom, there is excitment and eagerness on their  faces. It's not just another class, it's music.

``If a school has a good music department, it's a happy school. Not every student will play music, but most of them will listen to it. It's the vibe it creates in the school,'' he says.

Peter is excited about the practical learning approach put in place by head of department Cathy Trueman.

``It's the best it's ever been here. The principal (Phil Keenan) and the school are so supportive.''

Growing up in Stratford with his brother Graeme, by 1981 their first band Nocturnal Projections was formed.

Since then, Peter has released solo albums and been involved with a number of other bands, touring around the states, Canada, Europe and Australia.

Now the music teacher lives in New Plymouth, but gets a real sense of enjoyment seeing his students complete their first song.

``I'm teaching people to make something out of nothing. When you write a song that's what you do. It's a terrific skill to have.''

 One day a week, Peter teaches 26 students, which ranges from year 9 students to year 13 students.

``Getting the first song out of them is the hardest part.''

The exciting life of a musician is appealing and Peter says he got there by having no regrets and grabbing every


``You've got to live life when you've got the chance to live it.''

- Stratford Press

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