Thirty years ago, in the early day of setting up the Foundation, I never really thought about how long it would last. Obviously I hoped it would go on for a long time, but those first 2–3 years took a lot of hard work and there were a few setbacks.
The success of the Foundation has been due, in the main, to the people I have surrounded myself with – people who have been in the business in one way or another, or on the stage, dear friends who have wanted to help me ‘Share the Dream’.
I started the Foundation to help support young New Zealand performers overseas and prepare them for that experience. I had spoken at a Rotary event about how marvellous it would have been if I’d had someone to turn to when I was overseas as a young singer. It was the New Plymouth West Rotary Club that helped set everything in motion.
The Foundation has achieved far more than I ever envisioned. From its origins in Taranaki, to becoming a national organisation that has distributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to hundreds of young New Zealanders and nurtured their development. To be able to support the broad spectrum of the arts, helping everyone from singers to dancers to conductors and all in between has been a pleasure and a privilege.
Over the years I have watched young people at the tentative beginning, not sure what they really want to do or even that they have a talent, and then seen them succeed in their chosen profession. Singers like Simon O’Neill, Amina Edris, Pene and Amitai Pati, jazz trumpeter Mike Taylor whose talents took him from New Plymouth to New York, Christchurch ballet dancer Tasman Davids who is now dancing in St Petersburg. I’ve often said it’s about grassroots to excellence – with our regional committees providing that initial support and encouragement – then through our other awards, prizes and scholarships, offering opportunities and assistance to help young artists develop skills and experience to build a career.
“To be able to support the broad spectrum of the arts, helping everyone from singers to dancers to conductors and all in between has been a pleasure and a privilege.”
I am so proud of the 20 year association we have had with New Zealand Opera, supporting their artist development programme. And I am grateful they have chosen to align themselves with the Foundation all this time – and valued our input and involvement. I have lost count of how many of those young artists have had or are having a successful career. It isn’t always about reaching the heights of opera, but to see them have a career that takes them around the world and get work for an overseas opera company is such a huge pleasure for me.
My dream is that we eventually have a bigger programme with New Zealand Opera covering all aspects of being a performer. That means languages, acting, stagecraft, dance and movement, mental health, agent/artist management, auditioning and all aspects of theatre – similar to the San Francisco Opera’s Merola programme or the Australian Opera Young Artists programme. We already know that our young New Zealand artists are well regarded overseas which gives them a head start when applying for study programmes internationally.
The Foundation may bear my name but its success is far from mine alone. It is all the people who work so hard in the regional committees, our Chair David Jackson, Administrator Patricia Hurley, our current Trustees Alan Judge, Anna Pierard, Robin Brockie, Thomas Fleming, Gretchen La Roche, Susan Taylor, Jenny Wollerman, and former trustees such as Angela Gorton, Lindsay Lloyd and Anna Midgley. It is our supporters – my dear friend Joan Egan, the Greenlea Foundation Trust, Ryman Healthcare, the TSB Community Trust, the William and Lois Manchester Charitable Trust to name a few, the many hundreds of individual donors, and most touchingly, those who have left us a bequest in their will – such a special legacy.
I am so grateful for your support to share the dream.
This article was originally published in our 30th Anniversary Special Edition of Rhapsody (Summer 2020/21). Download the pdf.