10 September 2012
Baritone Kawiti Waetford has won the inaugural Lexus Song Quest Masterclass Scholarship funded by the Kiri Te Kanawa Foundation.
Kawiti who is from Whangarei and studies at Otago University impressed Lexus Song Quest International Judge and acclaimed tenor Dennis O’Neill during the fourth and final Masterclass held in Dunedin on Friday night.
Up to 19 Lexus Song Quest applicants participated in the nationwide Masterclass series, honing their technique under the direction of Mr O’Neill. The $15,000 Masterclass Scholarship was based on technique, musicality, presentation and the overall potential of the singer to have an international career.
New Zealand opera legend and spokesperson for the Kiri te Kanawa Foundation, Rodney Macann, said, “When it came to the choice for the winner of the Masterclass Scholarship, we are very happy that Dennis chose to award Kawiti Waetford the prize. He not only has an outstanding voice, he also has the charisma and ability to connect with the audience, which is so important for a singer in the pursuit of a successful international career.”
Kawiti Waetford is in his third year of a Bachelor of Music with Honors at the University of Otago, majoring in performance voice. Kawiti has considerable stage experience, with a background in Māori oratory, kapa haka and theatre. He was the recipient of the prestigious Ngarimu VC & Maori Battalion Scholarship in 2010. At just 21, Kawiti has already performed alongside many of New Zealand’s great singers, including Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, Teddy Tahu Rhodes and Simon O’Neill. In 2011, Kawiti attended the Solti te Kanawa Accademia di Bel Canto; a three week international singing course held in Tuscany, Italy.
About 700 people attended the free Masterclasses held in Wellington, Auckland, Christchurch and Dunedin.
Mr Macann said, “The Kiri te Kanawa Foundation was thrilled with the contribution of Dennis O’Neill. His rapport with the young singers and the obvious benefits the singers received from his tuition, almost instantaneously, was very evident. We were also delighted with the audience response and attendance which far exceeded our expectations.”
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Image: Jeremy Toth