News Centre

SMC’s Music backbone!

Jennifer Zeng (Year 12)

We are kick-starting our ‘Insider look into SMC life’ project with the introduction of the wonderful and talented person behind all music events, activities and rising musicians, Mr Stuart Gibbs – the Head of Music.

Mr Gibbs works tirelessly to accommodate and encourage the growing Music department at Sancta Maria College.

He has a large background in music – growing up playing the guitar, piano and flute. Joining the classical orchestral community was a huge turning point in his life and ultimately led Mr Gibbs to pursue Music Studies and develop a passionate career in teaching.

Before his time at Sancta Maria, Mr Gibbs taught in various schools around the UK and New Zealand. Starting as a music specialist at a primary school in England, Mr Gibbs came to Sancta Maria College in 2014 and has been teaching core Music and leading the Music department for 8 years!

“Sancta Maria has been the best part of my career – I loved it here and still do!” Mr Gibbs says.

Our Music department has certainly had a lot of success over the years, even throughout the recent Covid-19 pandemic. Some major events Sancta Maria actively participates in, are the KBB festival (to be held in August this year), Rock Quest, Jazz and Blues Club Auckland, Big Sing and many more!

A special mention must be given to our annual Jazz Night, connections with APO (Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra) and countless in-school fundraiser concerts. You can find out more about these events in our previous News Centre articles and newsletters…and keep an eye out for more to come!

Throughout his time here, Mr Gibbs has been extremely proud of the progress across the department.

From classical to rock to jazz, Sancta Maria offers a wide range of musical opportunities of all sizes, skill levels and genres.

It’s also the family atmosphere which comes from the school’s faith-based charism that makes Sancta Maria so different from other schools.

Mr Gibbs says: “I have never been in a school where the seniors spend so much time mentoring the juniors – not just in our own Music department but in our wider school community such as peer support, debating (and) Young Vinnies. The judges at Stand Up Stand Out once told me that they can always tell when SMC are there, because of the family atmosphere that we bring to the competition.”

The coming year also holds changes and new goals for the Music department! Keep an eye out for feature articles in the coming months.

Saying Good-bye and Thank you

On another note, we’ve had to say goodbye to Mr Thomas Cho, who has led our jazz section through numerous successes and left a huge legacy at Sancta Maria College. Mr Cho has moved to another school to continue his music journey, but his dedication, enthusiasm and talent will remain in the pages of the Sancta Maria history book.

We also welcome Ms Natalie Tantrum who is teaching violin and viola and joining the SMC community. And would like to thank the remaining music department teachers:

· Mr Craig Humphries – a core Music teacher alongside Mr Gibbs,

· Mr Lukas Fritsch – saxophone teacher – who is leading the Big Band.

Changes can be a scary thing, but they also offer more opportunities for growth and new beginnings!

One major goal for this year is to raise the number of Music NCEA credits generated – including students outside of the core Music subject. Students can make solo or group/combo performances to gain extra credits for their respective Year level (1,2 or 3).

Another goal is to have more students passing NZMEB (New Zealand Music Examinations Board) grades of their choosing. It’s important to keep the stream of musicians coming through!

Whilst competitions, exams and NCEA credits are certainly methods of learning and growing, Mr Gibbs wants to emphasise: “The best way to learn is to enjoy what you are doing and that cannot be done if we have a climate of pressure and tension.”

Essentially, the goal for the Music department at Sancta Maria will always be about developing passion and a sense of community – the trophies are just the cherry on top!

The Music department is a core part of extracurricular life at Sancta Maria College and music learning is often heard (and enjoyed) throughout the school.

This is the first of many articles in the ‘Insider Look into SMC life’ project, so keep an eye out for feature articles in the coming months and we look forward to your support. Keep up to date with all our articles by clicking this link.


Photo by Mary Aguirre (Year 12)