BHS SMP Testimonials

Portia Bell – Year 12 in 2023, SMP Strings

 “The Specialist Music Programme has provided me with an incredible platform of opportunities, both through ensemble work and as an individual musician. As a rising composer, the music department enabled me to record my own overture with the exceptional Burnside High School orchestra, after thoroughly tutoring me through this process. As a growing cellist, the Specialist Music Programme allowed me to develop more confidence as a performer through the weekly specialised classes. Th string students and tutor from the University of Canterbury combined with the SMP string students to rehearse and perform ensemble work collectively. These opportunities are excellent preparation for tertiary studies, and I am certainly looking forward to my final year through this department.”

Elisa Bird, alumni. Left 2021, SMP Woodwind

 “I am currently a NZSM performance student in my second year of a jazz saxophone degree, and was a member of SMP throughout my high school education. Being in SMP challenged me as a musician right from the first day I joined, providing me with so many incredible experiences and opportunities that helped me to see that music was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. The music department was not only supportive of every musical endeavour I made, but also taught me how to be an authentic, responsible and kind human being, within the creative sphere and outside of it. Even stepping out of my classical training and into the world of jazz as a tertiary student, I have found many of the skills I learnt as a SMP student to be transferable and extremely valuable in the professional scene. For me as a developing musician now, I am currently working on creating and cultivating my own music, while also enjoying and participating in the diverse music scene here in Aotearoa. The teachers and tutors of SMP are still very involved in my musical growth even now and I have so much appreciation for all the many ways they have helped shape me into the musician I am today.”

Kate King, alumni. Left 2018, SMP Brass

 “The SMP programme was such an integral part of my musical education, and helped me to decide that a career as an orchestral horn player was for me. I really enjoyed learning new music and playing with fellow students involved with the Orchestra, Symphonic Band and Chamber Music programme. All of the teachers who ran the classes, ensembles and weekly workshops were very supportive while pushing us to achieve. Without the learning environment and knowledge that the programme provided during my time at Burnside, I wouldn’t have had the opportunities to have performed with orchestras all over New Zealand, or to head overseas to complete a Masters in Orchestral Artistry at the Guildhall School of Music in London.”

Emica Taylor, SMP alumni. Left 2020, SMP Woodwind

My name is Emica Taylor, a third-year student studying a Bachelor of Music majoring in Classical Flute Performance at The New Zealand School of Music, Victoria University of Wellington.

After joining the Specialist Music Programme at Burnside High School in 2016, I would not have believed the incredibly rewarding journey this institution has taken me on. The 5 years I spent as a part of the SMP extended far beyond just refining my musical skills; this programme constantly empowered me with the practical tools necessary to navigate a career as a professional musician. What truly sets apart this music programme and department is their exceptional mentorship. The staff not only guided me in musical matters, but also helped recognise my leadership potential. They consistently encouraged and supported me to step out of my comfort zone and embrace every musical opportunity available. In my last SMP Wind Class of 2020, my wind tutor John Robinson said “I can’t wait to play with you in the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra one day”, and I remember laughing in his face. This year, I arrived to rehearse for my second concert playing with the NZSO and John came up to me and said “I told you so!” This is a small story of many, showing how the incredible teachers believed in us before we even started to believe in ourselves. Perhaps the most exciting aspect of the programme was the performance opportunities it offered. The school’s expertise enhanced my performance etiquette, ensemble work, and conducting, and I often find myself drawing on lessons I learnt from there. Whether I’m leading rehearsals, performing with the Royal New Zealand Air Force Band, or preparing a concerto, this programme and its mentors have shaped me into who I am today. In all honesty, the SMP does require a great deal of commitment, and so does anything that you get this much benefit out of. For anyone seeking a music programme that goes beyond technical training and equips you with the tools to succeed in the music industry, I wholeheartedly recommend the Specialist Music Programme and the music department of Burnside High School to you.