Inspirational jazz: the 40th National Youth Jazz Competition starts Thursday


2017 is the 40th National Youth Jazz Competition in Tauranga. If there is one event that should never be missed at Tauranga’s annual Easter Jazz Festival it’s the National Youth Jazz Competition this year on Thursday 13 and Friday 14 April 2017

For 40 years the National Youth Jazz Competition has showcased the very best of emerging jazz players from across New Zealand. Over two days Combos and Big Bands from New Zealand Secondary Schools strut their stuff for trophies and awards….”   Check out last year’s magic with ARTbop Editor Rosemary Balu.

Setting up on the Baycourt stage

The vocalist waits…

The Youth Jazz Competition isn’t just an inspiration because of the comprehensive display of musical and vocal talent, it’s inspirational to see the energy and effort of young people, their families, teachers and community supporters. In 2016 I enjoyed a really full on day of music, enthusiasm and sheer joy in the Addison Theatre and surrounds of Baycourt.

June Stewart one of the long-time Jazz Society volunteers works the foyer!

I was there for the Big Bands. The procedure was for them to perform on stage while a three person judging panel assessed them. At the conclusion of each school’s performance New Zealand jazz and band legend Rodger Fox went up on the stage and took them through a critique.

Judges confer

Rodger Fox is now a grey-maned, music professor at the New Zealand Music School – Dr Fox. He’s up on stage in Levis, a red checked shirt telling it how it is with scalpel and razor strokes in the gravel voice of a late night, talk-show calling truck driver. Some will love him, many will wilt at the edges of his commentary as he tells them to “practice moving the air”… stretching them all to excel.

Dr Fox tells it like it is.

There are performers from all over the North Island – names and places from the Auckland regional I seriously recognise – others just streets signs and map references. Tauranga Girl’s College performs in black tights, skirts and hot pink. Auckland schools are multi-ethnic indicative of the diversity of our migrant community – old and new. There’s charisma – real, unadulterated style and charisma. And there is the physical beauty and style of dedicated youth.

It continues all day. There’s incessant cell phone filming and photographing from accompanying family, friends and Nana’s.

In the afternoon anyone who was considering deja vu or a quiet doze would have been blasted out of their seats by the adult standard performance of Whakatane’s Trident High School. I should have figured something was up when the signature tourqoise-clad group bunched themselves into a tight band formation. And, the band leader is wearing the trendiest brown lace up shoes! It was ear shatteringly good – reminiscent of the early days of The Rodger Fox Big Band a younger me would follow.

The blistering performers of Trident High School, Whakatane

The young female vocalist in a floating red dress moves with her music – a powerful voice (I find out later she is Bailea Twomey. 

The fabulous Bailea Twomey Trident High vocalist

Prize giving – the urbane Liam Ryan has the trophies and certificates sorted. I see band members around me now in closeup – younger, smaller, adolescent flirting, straight out kiwi voices out of my family faces. There’s a mega-big and mega-ugly chocolate rabbit – now I can’t remember what it was for but it was ugly!!

Youth Competition Director Liam Ryan lines up the trophies!

The New Zealand School of Music takes the stage. There’s more males in this band. The drummer’s a Ritchie McCaw lookalike and there’s a professional edge to this lot. A small, blonde girl stands and toots her sax with a power you wouldn’t think she could possess. A froth of tight blonde Cleo Lane curls halos the vocalist, Caitlin Little. The bass is a Brian Blessed lookalike.

One of the NZ Music School Drummers sets up

Setting up….

A solo session

The vocalist takes the stage

The whole day is memorable. Liam Ryan acknowledges the support of parents, families and schools. Sponsors are named and acknowledged. A school that has experienced a sudden death is acknowledged with real sadness.

Afterwards on the cobblestones more cellphone images of winners and trophies.

The acknowledgement of talent and effort

Andrew Isdale’s Nana is holding his award for Best Saxophonist. She glows with pride. Later when I meet Andrew I tell him I’ve already met his Nana – he laughs – the Nana is his greatest fan.

Family pride – a loving and supportive Nana – the biggest fan

In the carpark outside Harrington House I find a Glendowie College Dad reorganising the car (including his surf board) to transport part of that team back to Auckland.

Glendowie College heads home

I’m down on the Strand on Sunday and, being me, start talking to a young band member during a break. He’s Luke Spence and his father is Alan Spence the Head of Music at Trident High School and the leader of that winning band. Luke introduces me to his Father and Mother.

A casual Alan Spence QSM on the Strand Tauranga

Alan and his wife have four sons who are all musicians. Alan’s the most unassuming man. But, I get him to disclose his formal music training and overseas experience, his QSM and Paul Harris Fellowship award from Rotary. He tells me that Trident has a team of music teachers and a Music Academy. There are Trident students in the Eastern Bay of Plenty Brass Band. I’m not surprised. I check out our erstwhile source of knowledge Google and find that Alan is a “third generation cornet player” and that the Trident High Music Academy has a “reputation for excellence” – don’t I know it. 

That school – Trident High

I started this by saying, “if there’s one event you shouldn’t miss” I have to say it again – call in, look and listen – not just to hear the music but to see the future. And I’ll finish by saying, next time you think about spending millions on a flag change, don’t, spend it on creative arts musical educational opportunities in our schools.


WHEN: THURSDAY 13 April 9.00am to 4.30pm COMBOS

FRIDAY 14 April 9.00am to 4.30pm BIG BANDS

PRIZEGIVING 4.30pm-5.30pm featuring a cameo performance by




FULL DAY PASS $19. plus any service fees



THE BAYCOURT FOYER HAS AN EXHIBITION CELEBRATING THE 40TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE NATIONAL YOUTH JAZZ COMPETITION- on display now until the end of the Festival. “Dedication Winning” the exhibition provides a visual journey of the band leaders and participants who have been part of our 40 year competition history.

My 2016 ticket!

Rosemary Balu. Rosemary Balu is the founding and current editor of ARTbop. Rosemary has arts and law degrees from the University of Auckland. She has been a working lawyer and has participated in a wide variety of community activities where information gathering, submission writing, community advocacy and education have been involved. Interested in all forms of the arts since childhood Rosemary is focused on further developing and expanding multi-media ARTbop as the magazine for all the creative arts in the Bay of Plenty, New Zealand.



Paradox the Street Art Festival to June 2017 inside and outside the Gallery and in and around the streets of Tauranga.  – www:

ARTbop supports Paradox


In case you don’t know when it’s on


Art by Rosie, Studio Gallery has a multi-artist exhibition opening on 4th April – “Home from Home” Six artists of international origin who now call New Zealand home exhibit their incredible work. The exhibition runs from 4th to 206th April at G7 Goddard Centre, 21 Devonport Road, Downtown Tauranga.


Sustainable Art Challenge.

You’ve got until Wednesday 9th June 2017 to enter. Info and registration on line at This is an event where innovation and style rival WOW in the creativity of the entrants.

Take a look at the articles on ARTbop about last year’s SAChallenge.  We take a look at the setting up of the display in the Baycourt XSpace and then the exhibition of winners at Creative Bay of Plenty, Willow Street, Downtown Tauranga – innovation and style.


The Western Bay Museum Katikati new exhibition “Building our Nation” on now.

The current exhibition at the Katikati Museum




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