Zeeah Rona Waerea-Tamai, 12, has been going to singing lessons for just three months but she has already achieved something most Kiwi singers only dream about.

She performed solo with the Auckland Philharmonic Orchestra.

She sang Hareruia, a translated version of Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah in te reo Māori, to a crowd of 400 people at the Worlds Collide APO Community Classics South concert, at the Vodafone Events Centre in Manukau.

The New Zealand Graduate choir sang backing vocals.

Zeeah Rona Waerea-Tamai sung with the Auckland Philharmonic Orchestra. Photo / Stephen Parker
Zeeah Rona Waerea-Tamai sung with the Auckland Philharmonic Orchestra. Photo / Stephen Parker

Not bad for someone who's only had five lessons.

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"The lessons have only been casual because we haven't been able to get a permanent slot," her mother Jasmine Waerea told the Rotorua Daily Post.

She approached Rotorua vocal tutor Elisha Hulton to help Zeeah Rona grow her confidence on stage, and learn a repertoire of songs.

"She's led her school kapa haka group in front of hundreds of people and I think it's alright when you've got a group of 40 on stage, but when it comes to just yourself it's a little bit more daunting."

Zeeah Rona did not let it bother her when she took the spotlight with the crème de la crème of New Zealand performers on September 1.

"I was happy," she said.

"They said it was amazing. Very good".


When asked how she handled her nerves, Zeeah Rona said: "I don't know. I drink heaps of water!".

The Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Te Koutu student said she did not expect to be chosen for the event.

"I was just watching TV and my mum came and told me."

Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Te Koutu students have won the Little Singer Experience for the last two years.

Te Pumanawa o Toku Ate Rogers won in 2017.

Hulton said it was an honour to teach both students.

She said, "From the very first lesson, she [Zeeah Rona] had such a beautiful voice, natural talent, and was so quick to respond to vocal instructions".

"She has worked really hard and practised between lessons. She really does have a beautiful smile and presence on stage.

Hulton said Zeeah Rona "could go the whole way if she wanted to".

"She has a really bright future in performing arts."

Waerea said she had known her daughter had talent for a long time and was grateful she was encouraged to enter the competition.

"Elisha gave really good advice since we really didn't prep for that long."

Waerea said her daughter was "really well looked after by the conductor" and "the whole event was just really humbling".

"I think we were all a bit more nervous than she was. She takes it all in her stride. She has the goal to do the job and then she just does it, without having to get nervous you know. That's with anything she does, she just goes out and does it."