Last Spring semester, I had the privilege of studying abroad in Dunedin, New Zealand. Prior to the start of term, I was able to take some time to travel the North Island and examine Maori music and their culture. As a music major, it is one of my favorite parts of exploring a new country and group of people. I spent seven days traveling around the island visiting Auckland, Waiheke Island, Rotorua, and Lake Taupo. During the semester, I was able to learn more about the culture through a course called Maori Society. Between the class and this trip, I was able to immerse myself in the New Zealand experience.
The first location on my trip was Auckland, the largest city in New Zealand. Here, I spent a lot of time researching Maori music firsthand. I talked with a professor in the music library of the University of Auckland. Then, I spent some time in the Auckland Public Library and the Archive of Maori Pacific Music. Day two I left Auckland on a ferry and got ready for some hands on experiences. This was perhaps my favorite part of the trip. Close of the coast of the sprawling metropolis is quaint Waiheke Island. I got a personal tour of island where I got to play a couple different Maori instruments. I was not very good. My tour guide was a very sweet older Maori woman who told me a lot about the culture and some traditional stories. The strong Maori population on the island made for a very authentic experience.
The next portion of the trip was more in the central part of the North Island. Here, I sailed on Lake Taupo and saw the iconic Maori carvings on the lake’s cliffs. I also spent time in the botanic gardens and Taupo Museum. The next day I took a bus to the town of Rotorua. I was able to travel to a Maori village cultural attraction called Te Puia for a guided tour and concert. The concert included many traditional Maori pieces of music and dances, like the Haka.
This was an amazing experience that really helped shape my time abroad. Although I was constantly on the move that week, I had a wonderful time and really learned a lot. The trip also paralleled a class that I would take during the semester. I left with a deeper understanding and appreciation of a new culture and music. Thank you to Mr. Paul Gilbert and Mrs. Patricia Romeo-Gilbert for their generosity for making these learning experiences possible.