Funding Feature – New River School

Three years ago, four pupils at New River Primary School showed an interest in learning the ukulele.

Little did they know at the time what they had just sparked.

Teacher Paula O’Neill concedes she is not a musical person but found a way to put those interested kids through a real basic ukulele programme.

The next year those four pupils were keen to continue, and interest started to grow amongst others about the prospect of learning to play the ukulele.

Even parents started to request that their children also get the chance to learn the ukulele.

Over three years about 60 students have now latched onto the ukulele at the New River Primary School based in South Invercargill.

But this story of a growing love of music at an Invercargill primary school hasn’t stopped at the ukulele.

One boy wanted to progress to learn to play the guitar. While others were following his footsteps learning the ukulele he was in the backroom teaching himself the ins and outs of playing guitar.

More pupils then expressed an interest in progressing to the guitar. But there was a problem.

The school didn’t have the guitars available to cater for that growing interest.

Fellow teacher Rebecca Jordan took it upon herself to address that. She was determined to find the funds to get the guitars and ensure the pupils had the opportunity to progress their musical interests.

“Rebecca Jordan has driven all of this. She decided; ‘let’s get some money to get some guitars, and smaller ones for the kids’,” O’Neill said.

Jordan reached out to the ILT about the prospect of a grant to fund the guitars. The ILT board enthusiastically agreed.

The school now has 14 smaller guitars which the pupils can use to learn with.

“We did have some guitars, but they were old and big adult ones,” O’Neill said.

“The support from the ILT has been fantastic, we wouldn’t have got the guitars for the kids otherwise.”

ILT board member Suzanne Prentice – a musical icon in her own right – visited the school and got a better understanding of the impact that music was having at the school.

She was delighted to hear about the positive role music was playing in the school and how the ILT grant has helped with that.

“I learned [guitar] about the same age. My parents brought me a guitar, but it wasn’t as good as those ones, it was a whopping big one I had,” Prentice recalled.

“It is great to see these kids learning, it is the perfect age to learn. It is fantastic to see something tangible coming from [the ILT grant].”

The introduction to the ukulele and guitar may well spark a lifetime love of music amongst some at New River Primary School.

Although O’Neill pointed out that embracing the pupils’ interest was about more than just music.

“The first day they pick up a ukulele they can’t even do a thing. Some can’t even strum and then they see themselves six weeks later, in that short time, they are playing songs.

“If they persevere, they will get it. We transfer that lesson into school to say, ‘If you practice at any skill, you will achieve it and get better at it’.

“So, what you have learned here you can apply to maths, apply to reading. If you keep practicing and persevering it gets easier and easier.”