Monrad musos' dedication rewarded

BIG TALENT COMES IN ALL SIZES: Harley Toki, Brodie Williams, Nehemia Mataora, all 13, with Tama Hawkins, 12, Tokotai ...
DAVID UNWIN/Fairfax NZ

BIG TALENT COMES IN ALL SIZES: Harley Toki, Brodie Williams, Nehemia Mataora, all 13, with Tama Hawkins, 12, Tokotai Mataora, 11, Kini Afu, 12, Maia Firmin, 13, Quincy Jazz Ellis, 12, and Jessica Tyler Whiteman, 13.

It's a real-life School of Rock at Monrad Intermediate's music class.

What would usually be a deserted classroom is set up for band practices.

Two days a week, the amplifiers hum and guitars reverberate as the school's best rockers have their lunchtime music fix.

Mozart and Beethoven have given way to Maroon 5 and Sam Smith.

Nine of Monrad Intermediate's most talented musos rocked the Battle of the Bands stage.

And they went home with the blue ribbon for their efforts.

They could seem like a motley crew at first glance, but every musician brings their own flavour.

From a rock background, teacher Jon Clark wants to encourage kids to get into music by whatever means.

The days of the shrill Ode to Joy on the recorder are over for this music teacher.

"There's a bucket of those in the back," Clark says.

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They have been replaced by ukuleles, keyboards, guitars and the drums.

Clark says there is not a focus on the theory, but on teaching pupils music they hear on the radio. "It's hugely practical. They turn up with an exercise book . . . But they don't need those."

His teaching style would not be deemed classical, and the kids have reacted well.

The children auditioned for their roles in the band early on in the year.

Armageddon brought the title back to their school for a second time.

The band's lead singer, Quincey Ellis, 12, was picked up by the band after Clark saw her singing at last year's It Factor contest, where she placed third.

Quincey mainly enjoys R'n'B music and sings lead for Armageddon.

They performed Ghosts by Ella Henderson as well as songs by Maroon 5 and Nesian Mystik.

Although their teacher had his reservations about such a complex song, their practice and determination saw them take the top spot.

Quincey also won best singer at the competition.

But the nine-strong band is full of talent.

Tama Hawkins, 12, plays blues harmonica for the band, but is a boy of many talents.

Tama says he has been singing since he was 5 and he has been brought up in a musical family.

Tama's grandfather played the drums and his father played the saxophone, so it was natural he would play.

He says his favourite music is blues or "anything Motown" and his favourite musician is American folk artist Sixto Rodriguez.

The band plays an eclectic mix of music, from R'n'B to pop.

But as the nature of school goes, school kids grow up; it's up to the young ones to lead the band to the Battle of the Bands next year.

 - Manawatu Standard

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