He waiata whakaako
Music is learning
Conducting at Opo now for the third year, I can attest to the success of the Opononi Music Camp formula. The 6 a.m. rehearsal becomes an opportunity for calm focus: no one has the wherewithal to talk! The 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. rehearsals are more lively and playful, and the 6:30 p.m. rehearsal the most challenging. I love the sharing of the conducting role: it allows us the chance to play our instruments, which is quite a rare opportunity. Being in the band is a learning experience for conductors as we can lose sight of how it feels to sit through a rehearsal.
We can see the styles of others, and learn from them, share the load of programming, develop strategies to support each section, discuss balance and all the other stuff that the conductor is responsible for. I also see Opononi as a wonderful opportunity to develop the skills of directors, many of whom are now/will be leading bands for the rest of their lives. The Opononi band is such a safe place to try new gestures and take some risks. Good directors = good bands!
Opononi Music Camp is the foundation of everything that I know and love about music, bands, and teaching music. As a kid growing up in rural Northland, Opononi gave me my first experience of playing in a full concert band. Over the past 18 years, I have gone from being a timid third trumpet, to being one of the conductors. The musicians I have met over the years are now lifelong friends, and their advice often benefits me in my role of Head of Music at Kerikeri High School.
Every year is a learning experience, and I delight in the benefits that my students get from attending. They, too, make lifelong friends and connections, and the school concert band gains from their experience playing new pieces and learning new skills. I would not be where I am in my career without Opononi Music Camp, and as a musician, it’s the best week of my year.
As a product of the Opononi Music Camp experience, my bias is unashamed and obvious. I am sold on it and have been for the past nine years. It had its part in the solidification of my love for music and music-making ,and I am grateful for the opportunity and privilege of being able to stand in front of that band every January and pour my soul into some great repertoire.
I am a third year horn student at the University of Auckland. My first Opononi Music Camp was in 2008 when I was still a tenor saxophone player, and also dabbled in tuba. I owe much of my love of music to Opononi Music Camp, and I have made lifelong friends there.
This was my first time attending Opononi Music Camp. I was encouraged to attend by Rangi, who I know from the Music Department at the University of Auckland where I study composition and conducting. The way he described it, with its 6 a.m. starts, sounded crazy, but it was everything he promised and more.
I really appreciated the chance to further my concert band conducting experience with such a keen group of learners. In particular, I loved how enthusiastic and well-behaved the ensemble was. Making music with such a talented group was extremely exciting and I cannot wait to be back next year (if they’ll have me!).
And of course…
You can’t discuss Opononi conductors without mentioning Ray Palmer.
When Opononi Music Camp began 30-something years ago, Ray was the conductor. At the time, it was a way to give Dargaville High School band members a head start for the year ahead. Many of the traditions, such as the bedtime story (Winnie the Pooh) date all the way back to the very beginnings of the Camp.
After many years of active involvement, Ray has stepped back from Opononi Music Camp, but still paid us the honour of attending the final concert. By the way he was greeted by past students, ranging in age from highschoolers to nearly 40, it’s clear he remains an influential person for musicians in the area.
Our performance of “(Risk) Everything for a Dream” was dedicated to him, in thanks and recognition for his work.