It's easy to imagine that some time in the future Fergus Byett will write a musical film score or conduct an important choir or orchestra.

The talented Year 13 Tauhara College student sat his ATCL (Associate member of Trinity College London) tertiary music exam last Friday, an undertaking so demanding that it is beyond the capacity of most school-age students.

And just three days before his ATCLs, Fergus was named the winner of the national NZ Choral Federation, SOUNZ Choral Composition Competition for his original four-part score titled Karaka Akau.

It has not all been plain sailing for Fergus. It took a lot of hard work and determination to come back and re-sit his ATCLs after failing by three marks in 2017. To become an associate member of Trinity College London, Fergus travelled to the Auckland Theosophical Society Hall in Epsom, where he performed five extremely technical piano pieces to the British-based ATCL examiner who will publish the results in September.


Karaka Akau is translated as Call of the Reef, and is about the legend of Pania of the Reef. Fergus' lyrics focus on the point of view of Pania's family, who are calling to her and asking her to come back because it's not the same without her.

Fergus had the lyrics translated into Māori with the help of the college's head of department of te reo Māori , Atareta Simmonds. The composition is 3.5 minutes long and is accompanied by the piano. Fergus plays the piano and the saxophone, and he says influences of classical music and jazz combine in Karaka Akau.

With a high degree of technical difficulty, the piece has not yet been performed by a live choir, and currently it's only possible to listen via a computer program called Sibelius. However, part of the SOUNZ prize is to have the choral composition performed, and Fergus says last year (when he won the competition for the first time with his composition He Waiata Na Parearohi) the musical directors from all the choirs performing at The Big Sing took the unusual step of forming a choir and singing Fergus's musical score.

Last week Year 13 Tauhara College head boy Fergus Byett won a prestigious choral composition competition and sat his ATCL exam.
Last week Year 13 Tauhara College head boy Fergus Byett won a prestigious choral composition competition and sat his ATCL exam.

A student of Taupō music teacher Lenice Frisken for the last 10 years, Fergus said he wouldn't have been able to get where he is without her.

A great all rounder, Fergus is also head boy at Tauhara College, a role that he says has its own 'busyness' to it. He says it's a great feeling to have the ATCL exam behind him and now he can concentrate on his level 3 NCEA subjects. He is keeping his options open for next year, but says he would like to take his music to another level.

"I would like to have the experience of conducting a choir or an orchestra."