When his father first asked him to sing for the U-Turn Trust and Te Aranga Marae Phillip Rhodes did not hesitate to say yes.

The internationally-acclaimed opera singer and foster son of Henare O'Keefe was thrilled to be playing at Iona College next month, as he had always wanted to raise awareness and increase community involvement with the trust.

"I am excited to play alongside my first mentor Patrick Powers again, hopefully he can give me a few more tips and Catherine Norton, the pianist, is another talented artist who has also returned to Hawke's Bay."

He said he never expected to be where he was today but it all started when he landed on Mr O'Keefe's doorstep.


Mr Rhodes grew up with an abusive father who committed suicide and left his mother and four siblings with nothing.

The children were handed in to foster care and thats when they were united with Henare and Pam O'Keefe.

"Henare said to me from the beginning 'it doesn't matter what you do son, I'll get behind you 100 per cent as long as its not robbery or stabbing someone. Do good and be a good person'".

Mr Rhodes never thought he would be an opera singer but the first time he aspired to be a singer was when he watched Mr O'Keefe sing the Impossible Dream.

"I remember thinking I want to do it but never thought I would be able to do it for a living."

Mr Rhodes went through high school achieving in drama and it was not until he was at EIT he switched to singing.

"I was a singing barman as the manager of Breakers before Patrick Powers scooped me up."

From there he studied with Mr Powers and became a young artist with New Zealand Opera before winning the prestigious Lexus Song Quest in 2007.

Dame Kiri Te Kanawa contacted Mr O'Keefe after this and politely introduced herself, before asking him what "that son of his" was doing.

The Dame Kiri Te Kanawa Foundation awarded Mr Rhodes a grant to study at the prestigious Cardiff International Academy of Voice in Wales.

He has since sung at opera houses around the globe and Mr O'Keefe said it was not often someone would go from a singing barman to a world-class singer.

"It is amazing, things like this are not suppose to happen. Where he had come from to where he is now is incredible," Mr O'Keefe said.

Mr Rhodes was back in New Zealand for Sweeney Todd but heads back to Wales after the concert at Iona College.

"I have to get back for my next opera which is in Leeds and I am performing the roles of Mizgir in The Snowmaiden and Peter in Hansel and Gretel."

"One thing they don't teach you at drama and singing school is life on the road."

Mr O'Keefe was very excited to have his son back in Hawke's Bay supporting the trust.

"The concert will be used to support local artists so we can bring out another Phillip Rhodes the painter or Phillip Rhodes the architect."

They will have an auction with paintings, sculptures and drawings by local artists.

"Half of the proceeds from each item will go to the trust and the other half will go to the artist or carver."

"It is our way of giving back and supporting the locals."

The U-Turn Trust was established in September 2009 with an aim to provide much needed solutions for some of the most pressing social ills which faced Flaxmere residents.

"Poverty is not about charity, it's about justice, it's a man-made thing, like racism, I think in some instances it's poverty of giving, it's poverty of love, it's poverty of passion - if we all had the inclination to love and give, poverty could be banished overnight," Mr O'Keefe said.

The concert begins at 7pm in the Blyth Performing Arts Centre at Iona College on October 19..

Tickets are $65 and are available on line at i-ticket and from the i-site in Havelock North and Hastings.