Here's to our citizen-makers

Talent, drive and luck are needed in equal measure to make it as an international opera performer...
Jonathan Lemalu, patron of the Virtuoso Strings Charitable Trust, based in Cannons Creek. Photo: ODT
Earlier in the month I attended a concert at the Wellington Opera House called Some Enchanted Evening and I wasn't just enchanted, I was spellbound, writes parenting columnist Ian Munro.

Ian Munro
Ian Munro

I'd gone to hear Jonathan Lemalu sing but, sorry Jonathan, for me on this occasion you were upstaged by your "backing group''. By backing group, I mean a 50-person orchestra called Virtuoso Strings.

Never mind the 2010 Grammy Award-winning soloist; I was captivated by 50 largely Pasifika and Maori young people aged from 8 to 18 years from decile one and two East Porirua schools who did Jonathan proud.

This might sound like the start of a concert review and, in a way, it is, but bear with me.

What a polished and professional group of young people, magnificently decked out in matching evening gowns and, for the boys, white shirts, properly knotted ties, waistcoats and black dress trousers and shoes. Not a pair of sneakers or jeans in sight.

For 90 minutes they accompanied Jonathan and also played their own pieces with polish and acumen. No restlessness, fidgeting, talking to each other or checking their phones. They were a group of youngsters who knew exactly why they were there and what they were about.

Sixteen-year-old Toloa Faraimo played the most moving rendition of The Lark Ascending that I've ever heard on the concert stage.

Virtuoso Strings Charitable Trust is based in Cannons Creek. Each year the trust provides free music education and opportunities to perform for more than 200 pupils from 10 low-decile Porirua schools. Jonathan is the trust's patron.

Each year pupils are also entered in the Trinity College music examinations and have a 100% pass rate to date.

There's far more teamwork and self-discipline required of members of an orchestra than of any sports team I can think of and at that concert I could see their teamwork, discipline and self-confidence.

So, I'd like to end 2018 by thanking all those groups of volunteers across the country who put so much time, effort and financial support into working with our young people and providing them with a wealth of opportunities that will grow them "into dependable, determined, forward-looking, community-minded, self-assured and hardworking teenagers with bright futures'', to quote the Virtuoso Strings' website.

And, just as importantly, all the parents who, often with few resources, make tremendous sacrifices to provide transport to practices and events, who wake up first to get them out of bed early for before-school training, who wait long hours in the cold and who provide encouragement and praise and wipe the tears when the going gets tough.

You all help make this a great country to bring our kids up in.

Merry Christmas.

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