Applications for entry to the SMP Programme for 2020 are now open.

Key dates:

    • Friday 30th August 2019: Auditions for 2020
    • Friday 16th August 2019: Applications close

Please complete the online application form on this website.


Westburn School runs the Specialist Music Programme (SMP) for students between years 5-8. Auditions are held every August, and successful applicants living outside of the Westburn School enrolment zone are exempt from zoning restrictions. Students in the programme are required to pay an SMP fee in addition to normal school fees.

Enrichment Classes and Chamber Groups

Starting midway through term one, these are held each Wednesday from 1:15pm – 3:15pm in the music room at Westburn School. During this time students study specialised topics such as the history of music, composition, theory, aural, movement and music, and experience a variety of different styles of music. Students also attend chamber group rehearsals during these sessions; specialist teachers/musicians assist to tutor and prepare the students for performance at two appraisal concerts in which all SMP students perform as soloists, and as a member of a chamber group.

During term 1, SMP students work together in forming a chamber orchestra, and a chamber choir. The chamber orchestra learns music arranged to cater for the makeup of the year’s unique instrumental ensemble, and slightly stretches the capability of each student. Choral and vocal technique are taught through participation in the chamber choir. Students learn songs that have harmony in two – four parts; performance from memory is expected for recital.

From term 2 students are placed in a small chamber groups where they work with a dedicated tutor. Chamber groups may change after the first appraisal concert to give students the opportunity to focus on different instruments and/or work with different tutors.

Two formal appraisal concerts are held each year in which every student presents a piece as a soloist. Students are appraised by two highly regarded specialists who write a detailed report for each student. These concerts are held in early August and early December each year. The August 2018 appraisal is to be held at the University of Canterbury School of Music in the Arts Centre Recital Room on August 2nd, at 6:15pm.


At these concerts, along with their solo work, students will exhibit other work completed including a presentation of the term’s topic work, and all of the chamber groups perform their pieces. Scholarships of substantial value are usually awarded most years from Soroptimist International of Christchurch, Robert and Barbara Stewart Charitable Trust, ROSL (Royal Overseas League), and Burnside High School SMP. Guest performers from JEM, SMP Burnside, or the University of Canterbury may take part.

SMP Camp

This event provides an opportunity for all students to get to know each other and to integrate new students into the programme. It is usually held in the second weekend of term 2, on the Friday evening and the Saturday day.

Parents are involved by assisting with the organisation and transport requirements over the weekend. Friday evening consists of an activity such as trampolining/movies/laser strike.

On Saturday morning the students meet at school and spend most of the day attending workshops relating to goal setting. The students also rehearse and parents return for an informal afternoon concert at school, followed by a afternoon tea.


Throughout the year students will be required to attend and perform at various concerts. Some will be within school hours while others will be in the evening, on weekends or during holidays

Achievement and support

SMP students must be enrolled in weekly lessons with an instrumental teacher. The instrumental teacher, parents and SMP teacher must be in contact in order to support the student in his/her achievement.

SMP students should be preparing for grade examinations (both practical and theory) and/or Suzuki graduations and/or competitions run by the Music Society. Students are expected to have good practice routines, and be focussed on a course of personal achievement.


All SMP students are expected to be mindful of their role in actively inspiring a collegial spirit within the programme. SMP students support, care for, encourage, and both inspire and gain inspiration from each other. SMP students are positive role models who live by the values of Westburn School: Respect/Whakaute, Excellence/Hiranga, and Citizenship/Whanonga tika. Our school vision is “Today’s learners, tomorrow’s leaders” and we enact our vision through living our values in daily interactions.

SMP 2019

During term 1 SMP students studied coding in music under the topic “Spy Club”, in which we studied “Espionage and Music” by coming together for a funtastic SPY CLUB weekend. Our first mission was on Friday evening: students formed four “Spy Rings” and in these teams, enjoyed completing challenges at Escape Artists! On returning from this adventure, we watched the hilarious movie “Johnny English” ate too much Pizza and chips, and had too much dessert together.

Saturday was spent (in costume) writing compositions based on motifs that were actually ciphers of the students names, (such as Bach and Shostakovich, among many others, have used). There are so many ways to code using Music, and we even found cipher designed by Michael Haydn (F.J’s brother). The students also rehearsed (a lot!), took part in a spy themed ‘treasure hunt’ designed by Mrs Jasmine Robb (who has the best games for any and every occasion). We were lucky to have a visit by Lauren and Jaime Ball to discuss what Justice means in New Zealand, and heard about the skills that are needed to work in the Intelligence Services such as the Predicting Crime Unit, where Jaime works, and the Department of Corrections, where Lauren works. Lauren studied Music at Burnside High School, and confirmed the skills she developed studying Music transferred to her job. We learned about musicians who have worked as spies throughout history, and how music has been used to convey secrets. Her best friend is a Concert Pianist who may/may not also be a spy.

Finally, at our concert, we played to our friends and family the pieces we have worked on so far this year. The choir sang “Skyfall” (which many of you will know as a song written and recorded by Adele for a James Bond movie), and “Soul Bossa Nova” by Quincy Jones (which was used as the theme song for the Austin Powers movies). Mr Richard Oswin arranged Soul Bossa Nova for the children to sing, as well all of the pieces the Chamber Orchestra played. These were Henry Mancini’s “Pink Panther Theme”, Monty Norman’s “James Bond Theme”, and the very challenging 5/4 version of “Theme from Mission: Impossible” by Lalo Schifrin! Richard has the ability to write parts for each child (and the conductor!) that are enjoyable for to play, but a bit of a challenge too, and to put all of these parts together to create such exciting sounding pieces. At the Concert the children also talked about their Coding Compositions, and described to the audience how they had found their motifs, what composition devices had been used to develop them, and what structure or form they had chosen to use in putting the pieces together. Each Spy Ring then performed the compositions, and showed us that we have creative talent, wonderful student leadership, and supportive student collaboration happening in SMP!

A huge thank you to our SMP teachers, Mrs Frances McNeill, Mr Elliot Riley (who had to drive across town to help us set up the hall!), and all of our supportive parents who gave their time helping with all the jobs need to make this mission a success!

SMP Spy Club Mission: COMPLETE

So, Why do Musicians make great Spies?

When WWII broke out, Musicians were sought out and employed by Bletchley Park (the top-secret home of World War Two Codebreakers), as cryptanalysts.

Espionage requires disciplined professionals. The discipline required to study music, and the brain development which the study of music enhances, are assets in this field of work.

Musicians develop skills in pattern recognition, abstract thinking, appreciation of other cultures, analytical skills, study organisation skills, self management and motivation, listening skills, numeracy, creativity, written communication and argument development skills. The ability to stay calm and to perform under pressure is valuable in many aspects of life, but is a particularly important skill for a secret agent to have.

It is most important that students study what they enjoy while they are at school. People who enjoy studying Music are likely to enjoy working as Intelligence Officers, and would be well prepared to develop further the professional skills a spy requires.

Intelligence work can be routine and repetitive at times. Having music as a creative release also leads to healthier, more well rounded, and dedicated officers, who can switch to their creative side when needed. In the important job of protecting and serving the public, humanity and creativity is required as well as science….

Music = Art + Science

Chamber Groups

For term 2 the SMP class has been divided into five smaller chamber groups:

  • a trio tutored by Jonathan Tanner
  • a vocal group tutored by Jasmine Robb
  • a string ensemble tutored by Richard Oswin
  • a concert band tutored by Victoria Panckhurst 

Solo Performance Workshops

One of the benefits to being involved in an extension programme such as SMP is being surrounded by potential collaborators who are as passionate about Music as you are!. During term 2 we are also running Solo Performance Workshops, in which each child prepares a piece to perform for the class. The performer introduces the piece before playing, and afterwards the class critique is exclusively encouraging and helpful. Our students enjoy commenting on areas that stood out as highlights while listening. The workshop may then lead to a discussion of the performance, or piece. The soloist may talk about passages that have required technical challenges, and ask for suggestions on how others have dealt with these demands. The tutors and children in the room offer very interesting and clever solutions/exercises they have found helpful. We also watch masterclasses together on youtube (Benjamin Zander’s being favourites), and students have attended workshops run at Burnside High School, such as Ben Morrison’s recent violin workshop in May, and taking part in ensemble workshops offered by the Christchurch Symphony Orchestra. The children have become very skilled in bouncing ideas off of each other, and are becoming increasingly confident sharing their insights, and observations. It is wonderful to see them all so keen to learn from each other.

A Very Special Visitor

Recently, SMP students went to the Christchurch Symphony Orchestra’s concert “Organic” in the Town Hall. The concert opened with “Rainphase”, a work by the internationally acclaimed, New York composer, and ex-Westburn SMP student, Salina Fisher. 

Following the concert, Salina visited the SMP class and brought with her the score of “Rainphase”. The students were able to see how she had notated the sounds that were so evocative of how weather feels! Salina spoke about the work in great detail, but also talked to the children about how she composes, and what she remembers about her time in Westburn and Burnside’s SMP. She has very fond memories! The students asked her many, many questions, and were really interested in everything she had to say. Salina is about to move back to New Zealand and take up the prestigious position of Composer in Residence at The New Zealand School of Music in Wellington. She will be able to live in Douglas Lilburn’s old house, and get to compose full time! As Salina will be visiting her home town of Christchurch often, she has promised to stay in touch and visit as often as she can, so we are very happy about that!

SMP 2018

During term 1 SMP students studied The Renaissance. The chamber orchestra learned and performed three dances from the Renaissance period; they also studied the features of music in the Renaissance as well as European history between 1400-1600 A.D.

In term 2 the SMP class was divided into five smaller chamber groups:

  • a jazz duo tutored by Dr Patrick Shepherd;
  • a piano trio tutored by Jonathan Tanner;
  • a woodwind ensemble tutored by Matthew Lee ;
  • a vocal group tutored by Jasmine Webster; and
  • a piano quartet tutored by Victoria Panckhurst.

Class time was also spent on an extensive composition unit taught by Dr Patrick Shepherd, in which students considered how music is made. Linking their practical work with their theory work, they dug deep to understand the basics of music. Students reflected on the ‘make up’ of a person, considering our physical and emotional make up, and compared this to the structure and life force of music. They studied the evolution of notation from Gregorian chant/plainsong in medieval music. Each student composed their own plainsong piece which was gradually developed rhythmically and harmonically, and then formed into a combined minimalist piece in the style of Arvo Pärt. These were then performed together as a class on a range of instruments with tintinnabular qualities.

Terms 3 and 4 saw a continued focus on music history with an emphasis on early music. Practically, this was be supported by participation in a recorder ensemble made up of a range of instruments from soprano to bass recorders. Students also learned to podcast over internet radio, and visited various studios around the city. Chamber groups continued and the students  presented all of this – their solo, group, and topic work – at the two recitals held each year.

JEM (Junior Extension Music) Programme

Westburn School also runs a Junior Extension Music (JEM) programme for students in years 3 & 4, who currently attend Westburn School. JEM is independent of SMP and participation in JEM does not guarantee entry into SMP. Assistance in preparing students for SMP auditions is a part of the programme, but JEM should neither be considered a prerequisite for, or assurity of a place in, SMP.

JEM is run as two 45 minute sessions for selected years 3 and 4 students by Heather Libeau-Dow on Monday afternoons between 1:30pm & 3:00pm. To be considered for JEM students do not need to be learning an instrument, though it is expected children will begin private lessons on an instrument. If needed, Heather and Victoria are happy to be involved in assisting parents and children find the right instrument and teacher for them.

The content of the JEM programme covers musicianship and musical literacy. By listening, playing, and improvising, the students develop understanding of fundamental concepts (beat, rhythm, dynamics, tempo, tone colour, form) and are able to describe and demonstrate these through the use of instruments.

JEM is based on the pedagogical principles of Carl Orff and creativity is at the heart of the approach. Students learn tuned and untuned percussion, voice, and recorder in their Monday afternoon sessions. Working with these instruments supports the learning of, and advances progression on, any instrument the child is currently learning or will learn in the future. Students in JEM learn to be confident, comfortable, and secure artists. JEM supports our young musicians, their families, and the children’s instrumental teachers in encouraging the children to develop good practice routines, and confidence performing.

Theory and aural work, following the main examination boards’ curricula, is part of the course and the delivery is mainly practical, especially at the earlier stages. This is because the objective of JEM is to foster a love for music, and to motivate our children to engage in their musical education.

Instrumental Lessons at Westburn School

Students are able to learn musical instruments during the school day. Many instruments are available for hire.
Suzuki violin and Suzuki cello lessons are available for students from years 1-8.
From year 3, students are able to undertake lessons in the following instruments:

  • violin
  • viola
  • cello
  • flute
  • clarinet
  • saxophone
  • guitar
  • bass guitar
  • drum kit
  • orchestral percussion
  • keyboard
  • piano

Extra Curricular Music Activities at Westburn School

SMP students are all members of the senior choir, orchestra and, if asked, Big Band (Jazz Band). SMP students are also expected to audition for representative groups each year, and if selected, represent Westburn at the Christchurch Schools’ Music Festival, the premier Christchurch musical event which showcases and celebrates the city’s youngest and brightest stars.

Junior Choir

An all-comers choir led by Heidi Marshall, for students in years 4 & 5. The choir rehearses on Tuesday mornings from 8:30am-9:00am, preparing for annual performances at the Kids for Kids concert and other school events.

Westburn Senior Choir

An auditioned choir led by Jasmine Robb, open to Westburn students in years 6-8. All SMP students are members of this choir. Rehearsals take place on Wednesday mornings from 8:15am – 9:15am. The choir performs in the North West Festival, the Christchurch Schools’ Music Festival, school concerts and other community events. The Westburn Senior Choir is a motivated group of students who pride themselves on performing at the best of their ability. The choir sings a range of music, usually in two or three part harmony.

WSO (Westburn Symphony Orchestra)

Westburn students who play an orchestral instrument, can read music, and have been learning for at least one year, are encouraged to audition for the Westburn School Orchestra led by Victoria Panckhurst. All SMP students are members of WJO. The orchestra has between 40-60 players with strong string, woodwind, brass and percussion sections.  

WJO play a variety of music to engage and stretch the children’s knowledge, appreciation and understanding of music. Dr Patrick Shepherd often assists with rehearsals and also arranges pieces for the orchestra to perform. WJO performances are keenly anticipated and of a very high standard. The orchestra rehearses on Thursday afternoons from 3:00pm – 4:30pm, and performs annually at the North West Festival, with Burnside High School at the Junior Showcase in September and at other school and community events.

DubJub (Big Band)

Students who play a jazz instrument are welcome to audition for Westburn’s Big Band “DubJub”, led by Victoria Panckhurst. Students meet on Thursday lunchtimes, learning to improvise and to play in a range of genres. DubJub take part in Junior Jazz Jam (an event for Christchurch primary school jazz bands) and in the Christchurch Big Band Festival which takes place over Labour Weekend. Dr Patrick Shepherd is often in attendance as a player/tutor, and the students also enjoy visits from Chris Petch and the Burnside High jazz musicians. Rehearsals have been known to double as lunchtime concerts for Westburn students, and the band enjoys performing whenever possible.

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