Loata Mahe has been a soloist, concertmaster and violinist in the Manukau Symphony Orchestra for over 25 years. Recently Loata was featured in an article in the King’s Courier Magazine. In the article, she mentions the impact that playing in the MSO has had on her career as a musician, and teacher. Read the article below, and see the original version via the link at the end of article.
The Practising Practitioner:
Teacher of Music.
Article extract from the King’s Courier Magazine.
Bringing with her years of experience as a musician in symphony orchestras, Teacher of Music Loata Mahe has a new perspective to share with her students.
My Tongan heritage and upbringing has had a huge influence on my teaching philosophy. Growing up, it was always about family, whānau and community, rather than an individualistic approach. Everything is community.
I feel very strongly about building relationships with the students, parents and the wider community. An idea that informs my practice is that teaching needs to be the whole package: if you don’t understand the student’s background, what they’re going through, or their family, it’s very hard to connect with them. If you understand their background, that might give you a better picture of how to help facilitate their learning to get better outcomes.
I started learning to play the violin when I was five years old, taking lessons and playing in orchestras.
A lot of my training was done with the Manukau Symphony Orchestra as a 10-year-old, where I got to play alongside some amazing musicians and also learn to relate to people of all different ages from all over the world. Respect is a two-way thing, and sometimes it’s as simple as unlearning what you think you know about a certain culture and just listening without judging.
I hope my students perceive me as a passionate lover of music. That’s actually what I am. I love music, and being able to share it either on the stage or in the classroom is the most beautiful thing for me. I’m passionate about music, and I’m also passionate about them. I care for them as humans first before as musicians.
In my classroom, I want my students to feel safe. I’ve got a playlist for every class – the students fill out a survey for me that asks who their favourite artists and bands are, and their favourite songs. I collate all of that and create a playlist on Spotify, which I play as they’re walking into class. I want them to enjoy coming to class. For me, I love playing my music, and if I’m hearing the music that I love, I’m going to have a good time. I try and engage them that way, right from when they first walk in.
I use that same playlist for their learning as well. Together as a class we will analyse the songs, look at the elements of music as building blocks, and then connect it back to the content from composition and performance to historical musicology and how it all fits within a global context. Making connections is key to higher order thinking.
I like to listen to all sorts: afro music, hip hop, R&B and reggae are huge loves of mine. Fiji, Shaggy, Snoop Dogg, Ardijah, Stan Walker and Adeaze… my playlists are full of diverse artists. But I have to say that playing classical music makes most sense to my brain.
I haven’t played as many concerts in recent years as I normally would because of COVID-19, but I get my violin out every now and again just to keep my chops up. That way, when a concert or gig comes up, I am always ready.
When I perform, it’s as if I’m taking the audience on a journey with me without saying a word. I love those moments when you have done all the work – practising, practising, practising – and then your body just does it automatically. Sometimes I don’t even remember the performance once it has finished – you get into a different headspace. It is magic. And now as a teacher, I get to share making that magic with my students.
The most satisfying thing for me in my first few months at King’s has been uncovering the talents of my students – seeing the students that I have in my class being able to share their musical ability confidently and freely. I think that comes from creating a safe space for them to be able to do so.
Also, the small class sizes at King’s mean that I can give attention to each of my students. Rather than only connecting with the class on a general level, I can talk to them individually and find out about their music background, what they’re into and what they’re up to. I have time to spend on each of them, and it’s highly effective. None of my students will slip through the cracks – there’s no space to.
The article can be viewed here: https://publications.kings.net.nz/kingscourier/kings-courier-autumn-2022/flipbook/52/
Photo of Loata Mahe: Copyright: Simon Watts © BW Media Photography.