David Tipi left Auckland three years ago to take up the position of head of music at Nga Tawa Diocesan School in Rangitīkei, and in April he became the musical director for the Wanganui Male Choir. He took the time to answer 10 quick-fire questions from Mike Tweed and, as it turns out, music isn't the only thing David excels at.
Was it a shock to the system to move from Auckland to Marton?
Very much so, there was a quick learning curve for sure. It's a different pace here, but the traffic is great.
What's your favourite thing to do in Rangitīkei?
That's largely dictated by my son, Lachlan. There's a new playground here in town which is great, and he loves Kowhai Park in Whanganui as well. So yeah, our favourite things are decided by a 5-year-old, really.
What are some new things you've brought to your role at Nga Tawa?
The school is very classical-based, but now I think what's come in is the more contemporary side of things, and we're building that up. I brought volleyball to the school as well, which they've never had before. We got off to a bit of a slow start but things are coming right now. Volleyball is a real passion of mine. Many years ago my team in Auckland were the national champs.
Which local musical groups are you involved with?
I've taken over the Wanganui Male Choir, and there's a great sound coming from the old guys. It's a good thing to be involved with, because I've always taught mixed choirs and male choirs, and obviously at Nga Tawa I just work with the girls' choir. They are a cool bunch of guys, really hilarious. It's been fun so far.
What advice would you give your 15-year-old self?
Buy a house earlier, for sure. I guess practice more as well. I was a pianist to start with before I got into singing, and I kind of regret not continuing with it [piano]. I should have done the ATCL grades and all that stuff, but I jumped over to singing and sport instead.
You can invite any three people from history to dinner. Who would they be and why?
That's a tough one. I'd go with Beethoven for a start, just to know what was going on in his head. Was he actually a really angry person? Was he an angry genius? Then I'd say Lü Bu, who was one of the greatest warriors of the Three Kingdoms-era in China. I'd probably go with Gandhi for the last spot. Someone to bring peace to the table.
Is Rangitīkei a place you plan to stay long-term?
When I moved here I said I'd give it at least 10 years, and this would be my long-standing teaching job. To be fair, I don't see myself being a career teacher for the next 20 to 30 years. I'm into year 12 now and this is my third school. That 10-year plan is still something I'm happily committed to, though.
Who would feature in a David Tipi musical supergroup?
On acoustic guitar I'd have Tommy Emmanuel, with Dimebag Darrell on electric and Nile Rodgers on rhythm. The drummer would be Mitch Mitchell. Most people would say John Bonham, but I'm a big Mitchell fan. I'd probably chuck Flea on bass guitar. Steve Perry at his best would be the singer, along with Myles Kennedy. I don't mind doing back-up vocals, and I'll put myself on keys as well. That would be rock/fusiony type band. The name of the band? Ipit Divad.
Who/what inspired you to pursue music?
It was sort of thrust upon me, to be fair. My brothers and I were all rugby league players, and we played a bit of rep footy in our early years. One day Dad said he'd been given a piano by one of his friends, and that one of us had to play it. My two older brothers said no, so I drew the short straw. I played league for as long as I could before Dad said I'd have to choose between the two. Then he chose piano for me. Dad was an organist in Samoa and he really liked his music, so it kind of fell to me.
Nga Tawa is known for its equestrian programme. Have you tried your hand at riding since you've been there?
There are a couple of events here where staff can be involved, but I've managed to dodge them so far. I'd have to ride in front of everyone, in front of the whole school. There would be nowhere to hide. I'd like to give it a go at some point though, more discreetly maybe.