Alison, winner of the arts and culture category of last month’s 2012 Hutt City Community Awards, rattles off a long list of favourite places, including the many tramping trails in the western and eastern hills, the Buddhist monastery in Stokes Valley, the Steiner community in Tirohanga, the city’s civic gardens, the Dowse Art Museum and a shop she frequents regularly, Commonsense Organics.
“The community is blessed with all these resources – and much more besides,” she says.
Alison and her husband are both professional musicians and have worked abroad in orchestras for many years. They came to New Zealand two-and-a half years ago, after having lived in Spain for three years and, more recently, in Mexico for 11 years.
Her husband plays in the horn section of the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, while she teaches 35 private students a week, as well as fulfilling two weekly commitments at St Michael’s Catholic Primary School in Taita – an in-class programme for 15 beginners and an after-hours programme for 30 older students from five surrounding schools.
For two years’ work with the Arohanui Strings, as the children’s group is known, Alison received her community award at a ceremony on 18 September.
In her private work, Alison uses the Suzuki method, which aims to foster good character as well as musical ability, while her commitment at the school is inspired by El Sistema, a worldwide movement aimed at bringing music to neighbourhoods where the children would not otherwise be able to learn an instrument – in the case of the Taita children, the violin.
Both approaches see music as a vehicle for social change and improvement. And Alison knows it works. “As well as mastering the violin, they develop social skills and learn perseverance, responsibility and harmony.”
To learn more, or donate services or funding to the Taita venture, call 04 563 8877 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.