Sacha Keating and Lizzie de Vegt work together to get students through the NZ Certificate in Music Level 4.
Their teaching area, just off Taupo Quay, is spacious, light, decorated with portraits of dozens of celebrity musicians and equipped with band gear, instruments, recording equipment and computer terminals with keyboards in the musical sense of the word. There's even a kitchen.
"We've got a new curriculum and this is its second year," says Lizzie.
The previous programme was the Certificate in Contemporary Music Performance.
"It's been modernised, revamped, with more production, more mixing, scoring for video, more computer-based music," says Lizzie. "It's streamlined."
The new curriculum should attract students and keep them in Whanganui.
"Our community is not diverting musicians into tertiary, and if they are, they're sending them away to Wellington," says Sacha. "This is a good foundation course, and they can still cross-credit. When they audition from here [for outside tertiary institutions] the likelihood of their entrance is a lot higher."
While the course for this year has already started, there is a two week buffer during which students can still enrol and join classes.
After the year-long course there is the opportunity to continue through Level 5 at the Palmerston North campus or go on to further studies around New Zealand.
"A lot of our students stay around town and end up working in the industry, getting sound jobs or playing bands," says Lizzie.
Whanganui could provide a Level 5 course if student numbers were high enough.
UCOL gets good support from venues in Whanganui: their students are often invited to perform at the Musicians' Club and Jazz Club, for example.
"We want to get out [on the circuit] because it's important for our students to get that feel for playing in a different venue, different space, different stage," says Lizzie.
Students beginning the Level 4 course need not be musically proficient but they must show passion and commitment, they say. NCEA Level 2 is the only academic requirement.
"Every student has access to one year fees-free," says Victoria Campbell, UCOL head of School for Creative Industries. "Sometimes it's really good for adult learners: they want to get back into some type of study, so if they have a particular passion for music this is a good place for them to do that with that fees-free."
Victoria says the music students perform at orientation week and graduation.
"My focus is getting all of the teams involved in everything that everybody does."
Students will be involved in providing music for a fashion show or give support to other creative areas in the school.
Sacha returned to Whanganui from Auckland and wants to rebuild the once thriving local music scene.
"Regardless of whether you're into classical music, opera, heavy metal, hip-hop, whatever, there's so much information here that's important across the board," he says.
"For some reason people think this is a rock shop, but we welcome everybody with a curriculum based around every dimension of music. Everyone comes from different musical worlds but this curriculum covers all of them."
Sacha is also UCOL's cultural facilitator.
"He goes into classrooms and assists students with their knowledge of Whanganui Maori," says Victoria.
Some of that knowledge overlaps into his music teaching, like the fact that Whanganui has its own indigenous rhythm, a time signature of 6/8, the rhythm used when paddling a waka.
"We're here to help people," says Lizzie. "To see people grow and thrive, that's what I get a kick out of. Giving them music skills but life skills as well."
Inquiries about the NZ Certificate in Music Level 4 at UCOL Whanganui can be directed to Lizzie de Vegt and Sacha Keating on 021 249 7773, firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com