When Haden Te Haara found out he was set to follow in the footsteps of his music idol John Mayer he was "ecstatic".

The 18-year-old Massey High School pupil - who first picked up a guitar aged 5 - is one of the lucky few to be accepted into Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts.

The respected music college is the largest independent contemporary music college in the world, and is known for its jazz.

John Mayer. Photo / AP
John Mayer. Photo / AP

Its alumni include singer-songwriter John Mayer, several members of rock band Imagine Dragons, two members of Aerosmith, and legendary music producer Quincy Jones.


As of this year, its alumni have been awarded a total of 266 Grammy Awards.

Te Haara said he was shocked by his acceptance, saying he did not expect to get through the arduous audition process.

"I just went over to see where I needed to get to, to be able to get into Berklee. But, I got in. It was pretty unexpected."

The audition - held in Sydney in July - included playing a musical piece he had practised in advance, then a piece he had not seen before (known as sight reading), followed by an aural test, and an improvisation segment. After that came the interview.

"It was pretty scary."

He was also lucky enough to secure a US$10,000 ($13,943) scholarship - which he was told was rare for guitarists.

He credits his dad Mac, a team leader at Manukau Institute of Technology, for sparking his love of music and teaching him how to play.

"He taught me everything when I was little."


It was his dad's music that prompted Te Haara to pick up a guitar at just 5 years old - the instrument he thought his dad was playing.

"He plays bass, but I thought it was a guitar when I was little and I wanted to be like Dad," he laughed.

Music runs in his dad's family - Mac's cousin is singer Mark Williams, now of Dragon, famous for his 1990 hit Show No Mercy, and voicing the theme song for Australian soap Home and Away.

Now Te Haara hopes to make music his career.

"The whole idea of being able to play music for a living ... that's the dream in itself. To be able to do that would be pretty crazy."

He was particularly excited about following in the footsteps of John Mayer, who he described as a "huge" influence.

"His stuff is just incredibly good."

Now though, begins the task of raising money for his tuition fees - US$40,082 (NZ$55,862) per year, plus board and other expenses which can total a whopping US$60,272.

"I thought the audition would be the hardest part, but it turned out the fees are really crazy," he said.

Mum Sarah says the family will be saving hard for the next few months.

"It's pretty awesome, but sadly it's a really expensive place," she said.

The scholarship was "definitely a help", she said: "We're grateful for that."

But the family were "in panic zone" trying to raise the rest of the money before he enrols in January.

They've started a Givealittle page, as well as creating a CD of some of his music in order to raise money.