News and events

DMMF artists paying it forward

From left: Wade Kernot, Joanna Heslop, James Harrison, Amanda Atlas

At our Government House 30th anniversary concert in August, MC Wade Kernot spoke with pride of his longstanding connection with the Foundation, since his time as an Emerging Artist in 2004.

Wade, who is a member of the DMMF Wellington Committee, said it was time for the young artists Dame Malvina and the Foundation had backed to continue its legacy. Indeed, across the country, the Foundation’s voluntary committees, who work to support its mission at a grassroots level, are now sprinkled with DMMF artists.

A Voice Lecturer at the New Zealand School of Music – Te Kōkī, Wade said it was a natural progression to join the committee when he was asked last year. “As someone who has received an overwhelming amount of support, I feel a strong responsibility to pay it forward to the next generation.”

And his generation, he says, have a responsibility to continue the legacy of the many people who have dedicated the last three decades to building this great New Zealand institution. “Taking the hard earned lessons from the past and being prepared to develop to the ever changing arts environment is going to be key, particularly during these strange times.”

Fellow DMMF Wellington Committee member is opera-singer-turned-diplomat Joanna Heslop. Her first connection with Dame Malvina was as a teenager when they both performed the Andrew Lloyd Webber Pie Jesu in Taranaki. Joanna went on to become one of the first DMMF Emerging Artists in 2000.

Facing lockdown in Italy last year, Joanna did a lot of thinking about “life, the universe and everything”, and realised she needed to get back to the arts in a more deliberate way. Joining the committee on her return to Wellington was part of that, as well as joining the New Zealand Opera Board. “COVID is a huge trauma for the world, and the arts have a crucial role to play in supporting people and society to be emotionally aware and intellectually curious. So we need to develop our artists and make their mahi accessible to as many people as possible.”

In Auckland, James Harrison chairs the local committee for the Auckland and Waikato regions. A DMMF Emerging Artist with Joanna in the first year of the New Zealand Opera programme, James says the Foundation, and Dame Malvina herself, were hugely generous as he was starting out and there are many artists who would say the same.

“I was keen to give back and keep the good work going. It’s a very rewarding experience as I get to hear and see the work of so many talented young New Zealanders, all of whom are doing very well in many different parts of the world and across a wide range of disciplines.”

Amanda Atlas is also thrilled to use her experience and enthusiasm to help the Foundation help singers and other performers to follow their dreams – as the Foundation helped her.

“I was approached by Anna Midgley, Chair of the DMMF Christchurch Committee, to see if I’d be interested in getting involved, and I jumped at the opportunity! The Foundation has contributed so much to my life and career, and to the careers of so many of my amazing friends and colleagues. I want that to continue for my students and all the young singers who are just starting out.”

This article was originally published in Rhapsody (Summer 2021/22). Download the pdf.


Sharing the dream in Taranaki


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