Born out of a strong tradition of legacy, the BayLynn Youth Band was formed five years ago by Zyia Li Teh and Bernie Allen. Zyia Li, who taught music at Blockhouse Bay Intermediate, had invited her mentor Bernie and his long-time trombonist friend Merv Thomas – both now octogenarians - to come and inspire her students.
Zyia Li had observed that many of her students who had an interest in music, ability and potential, dropped music at high school, largely because there is no real bridge to the level required there. The idea of a youth band was formed to make sure these kids continue to have music in their lives.
Rather than following the traditional lines of a concert band or symphony orchestra, the founding concept was more of an inclusive group, working on a trickle-down mentoring model.
A small team of dedicated musical directors work hard to provide musical mentoring in this ‘team sport’ environment. This then leads to the more experienced players guiding and encouraging newer members, and on down the chain.
The music is specially arranged and adapted to accommodate the skill level of each member as they grow and develop with the band.
Mentoring young musicians is a familiar concept for Bernie Allen, who for years led big jazz bands, bringing in young players to give them experience.
With a musical career beginning as an aspiring jazz player in the mid-Fifties, Allen’s name was well known in the Auckland music scene, and later appeared in countless credits as musical director for TVNZ productions. One of the most memorable of these is his arrangement for the “Goodnight Kiwi” animation.
Allen believes that all children should be taught music because it activates certain parts of the brain, enhancing the understanding of such things as maths, timing, moods and emotions.
“I’ve done a lot of fulfilling things in my life, but none as fulfilling as the BayLynn Youth Band”, he says.
The band usually arranges at least one performance per term, recently performing a 5th anniversary concert at the Point Chevalier RSA with the support of renowned local jazz musicians such as Bernie Allen, Merv Thomas, Michael Howell, Bruce King, Mike Walker and Neville Grenfell. They also perform at the Blockhouse Bay Primary carnival at the end of November and are a regular favourite at the Hillsborough Heights Retirement Village.
So, what is a legacy? Perhaps legacy could be defined as learning from the past, living in the present, and building for the future.
And when the skills and passion of a lifetime of music are passed on from one to another as is the case with Bernie and Zyia Li, and is now getting passed on to another generation, that’s legacy.
The band can be contacted through their Facebook page, website www.baylynnyouthband.org.nz or at firstname.lastname@example.org.