Since our inception in 2011, there have been many exciting developments over the years, and we now work with over 1000 children throughout the year at Sistema Aotearoa. Starting as an afterschool-only program, we have now developed into an in-school and after-school program, giving regular group lessons in our six local partner schools during the school day, then seeing those same children again weekly after school at our base, Ōtara Music Arts Centre in south Auckland, New Zealand.
Our orchestras are named after prominent historical and legendary figures in Māori culture; for example, our Tupaia Orchestra is named after an important Polynesian navigator born in 1725. Our most mature orchestra, which includes children who joined the program when we first began, is called the Tiki Orchestra, after the most ancient of all Māori gods.
As we nurture our young musicians to grow and mature into young adults, we continue to develop our young leader program. This includes having them taking more control over their sessions, and encouraging them to take a role in teaching within the program. We have just added our first paid junior tutor to our fantastic tutor team, and she takes seriously the role of working with our younger musicians twice a week after school, in addition to developing her own musical and social skills in our Tiki orchestra.
Performing is an important part of what we do, and we love to give the tamariki (children) as many opportunities as possible to perform for their whānau (families), their community and the wider Auckland region. The highlight of our performance calendar is our annual end of year Hui (concert) for all the participants of Sistema Aotearoa. We rent the prestigious Vodafone Events Centre in south Auckland, which is filled with our whānau, community, schools, funders and supporters, and anyone connected with our ever-growing organisation. It is a wonderful celebration of the year’s work, and a great opportunity to share the hard work and skills of all our tamariki.
Sistema Aotearoa directly reflects the community we work with, and 97 percent of our children are of Pasifika or Māori descent. We incorporate Māori and Pasifika music into our repertoire, as we believe it’s important to have a mix of both historical orchestral music and local cultural music. This nourishes our relationship with our community whilst also immersing the children and their families into the wealth and emotional depth of the orchestral repertoire. We feel that the combination of the two, with the addition of folk and other genres, is an important aspect of our program.
We have an amazing and consistent team of tutors, with many of our tutors having been with us for over five years. With their collective teaching experience and depth of understanding of the culture and demographic of our children, our musical progress and retention rates of yearly intakes continue to improve. Sistema Aotearoa often works where there is the greatest need and fewest resources, and we face many challenges within the program; we continue to work together as a team to find new and innovative solutions to these challenges. This is also what makes the program so rewarding to be a part of, as we see young people overcome the challenges that face them, and blossom into confident communicators representing their whānau and the community of Ōtara, of which they are so proud. And in turn, their community is so proud of them.
Ko ā tātou tamariki te iwi whānui o āpōpō. Whakaaetia rātou kia tū tōtika hei tauira mō ngā reanga e whai ana i a rātou.
“Our children are the community of tomorrow, and must stand tall as an example to those who follow them.”
—quote from a Sistema Aotearoa grandparent
Author: Jess Hindin, Music Director, Sistema Aotearoa