Six years ago, Jade O'Connor picked up an electric guitar for the first time. Last month he received distinction in the second-highest exam at the London College of Music.
His guitar teacher, Dieter Burmester, says the Lower Hutt 19-year-old is the only person in New Zealand to sit his Licentiate of the London College of Music (LLCM) this year.
"He's extraordinary. He's got this memory that's amazing and his playing ability is just getting better and better.
"He does everything by ear and a lot of people these days forget that the ear's very important."
The exam involved a prepared performance and a technical study, plus creating a melody to go over a new piece of music. O'Connor received an overall score of 94 per cent.
"It was challenging ... for a moment I thought I was going to fail it because it didn't sound as good as when I practised," he says.
O'Connor tried playing the clarinet, but did not enjoy it. "I don't remember a single thing."
His love of electric guitar was almost instant, and he practises for hours each day.
"It's easy and more fun to play because I can do a lot more than just play melodies."
His favourite genre is metal, and he also enjoys playing country and jazz.
Next year he will sit the top exam, the Fellowship of the London College of Music, which involves a 45-minute concert.
Mr Burmester says he has what it takes.
"According to my teacher I'm the best in New Zealand ... That's cool. It makes me feel special," O'Connor says.
The former student of Lower Hutt's Raphael House Rudolf Steiner School is completing a carpentry apprenticeship at G&H Training in Petone and says he would like to make both building and guitar playing his career.
But first he would like to join a metal band and start performing in front of audiences.
- © Fairfax NZ News