Taonga pūoro artist announced as University Composer-in-residence

Taonga pūoro artist and practitioner Jerome Kavanagh has been announced as the 2022 Creative New Zealand/School of Music—Te Kōkī Composer-in-residence.

Man with māori cloak holding traditional taonga puoro instruments against natural background
International taonga pūoro artist and practictioner Jerome Kavanagh (Mokai Patea, Maniapoto, Kahungunu, Irish: Caomhanach) has been announced as Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington’s 2022 Creative New Zealand/School of Music—Te Kōkī Composer-in-residence.

Jerome is part of a movement introducing Māori music, art, and culture to the world. He has performed and recorded with artists from a variety of different genres, and was a featured solo artist and lyricist on 2011 Grammy award-winning album Calling all Dawns. He will begin his residency on 28 February.

“I’m really looking forward to having time and space to focus on composing, recording, and releasing new music. This residency gives me the ability to work among my friends and within the community of some of the greatest musicians I’ve worked alongside, something I’ve missed while travelling over the past 20 years throughout Aotearoa and the world,” says Jerome.

Deputy Director of the NZSM, Associate Professor Dugal McKinnon, says they are delighted to have Jerome as composer-in-residence. “Jerome will be a wonderful composer-in-residence, given his considerable creative, performative, and collaborative ability and experience. He’ll bring not only the highest level of musicality to the residency, but also a demonstrated commitment to enriching musical communities.”

Jerome will work on five projects across the 10-month residency. Among them, he aims to compose, record, and release an album with local artists Salina Fisher and Neil MacLeod called Mana o te Wai—the power of water, about Wellington’s forgotten waterways. He also aims to produce his second solo album, Oro Atua: Taonga Puoro Māori sound healing journey 2. “Oro Atua is about healing through the vibration of the natural world, produced by taonga pūoro. These sounds give us an opportunity for reflection and self-healing.”

The University will benefit from Jerome’s plan to provide fortnightly concerts focused on the healing power of taonga pūoro, allowing staff and students the opportunity to experience the health benefits of Oro Atua. Local schools across the Wellington region will welcome his ‘Power to the Puoro’ programme, which aims to inspire budding musicians to explore the world of taonga pūoro.

Jerome says he welcomes the opportunity to connect with the staff, students, and community at the NZSM. “As I have spent decades researching the revival of taonga pūoro as Rongoā Māori (healing devices), I’m interested in becoming involved in the music therapy course at the University, and to able to include an indigenous perspective within this.

“Aotearoa seems to be a world leader in recognising indigenous knowledge and ancient wisdom, and integrating taonga pūoro into music therapy would be a world first in terms of universities and the academic world recognising mātauranga Māori. I’m excited to potentially be able to do this at the University.”

Associate Professor McKinnon notes that the depth and diversity of applications they received signals a bright future for the residency as an outlet for Aotearoa’s excellent composition scene.

The composer-in-residence resides at Lilburn House, and receives a stipend. The residency is one of three being held at the University in 2022, thanks to funding provided by Creative NZ.

Further information about Jerome’s work can be found on his website: www.puorojerome.co.nz.