Anna Whitaker

'The course is helping to continue to shape me as a musician, and is giving me clear goals...'

  • Anna Whitaker

Bachelor of Music

Studying towards a Bachelor of Music with Honours

Head of Dance, St Margaret's College, Christchurch and Freelance Musician

The highlight of jazz specialist Anna’s week is taking the St Margaret's College Big Band.

'I love it when high school students realise jazz is fun and accessible — and the best way to spend a Thursday afternoon,' she says.

Anna teaches music and dance at the school and is also studying towards her honours degree, specialising in jazz voice performance. Finding time for everything she packs into her day is not easy — in fact, Anna describes life as being ‘insane’ at the moment — but as they are all things she enjoys, she finds the energy to make it work.

‘Currently I get up super early so I can get into the Charles Luney auditorium at St Margaret's to practise on the Steinway for a couple of hours before school starts. That is a luxury that motivates me to get up early!’

Evenings and weekends see Anna playing piano and singing locally. She also performs regularly at big events such as the International Jazz and Blues Festival in Christchurch and the New Zealand Big Band Festival.

‘I do thrive on a challenge, and there is a light at the end of the tunnel, once I have completed the performance component of my honours and moved onto my research. And all the gigs I'm doing this term are super fun ones, which is also motivating — so it's working for me at the moment!’

Anna is also happy that, despite the workload, studying and working are proving mutually beneficial.

'I love that combining being a musician and teaching music means you keep developing your own craft while encouraging others to do the same. At times it can be really tiring, but there is nothing more satisfying than taking what you've learned on the job into the classroom, because the learning becomes really meaningful.'

Anna’s interest in jazz took off while she was at Burnside High School. She graduated with a degree from the Christchurch Jazz School in 2007 and then threw herself into establishing a successful music career, which she now wants to take to a new level.

'I thought it was time to solidify my skills in an academic setting,' she says of her decision to return to study. ‘UC offered me a programme of study that I could tailor to what I wanted to focus on musically, together with all the support I needed to dive into academic writing. I have really enjoyed the one-on-one tutoring here, and the extra help you can seek from the academic support services.

'The course is helping to continue to shape me as a musician, and is giving me clear goals for where I want to take my art form.'

Those goals include spending some time in New York.

'I would like to learn about jazz in its country of origin. Then I would like to bring this experience back to Christchurch and continue to contribute to the music scene and the teaching profession here. I've released two albums and I feel that after I finish my honours at Canterbury, I will be ready to embark on my third.

'Music is a path of lifelong learning, so if you have the privilege of studying full-time, I would highly recommend you treasure that time, and make the most of others around you doing the same, so you can work together and inspire each other.'

Jessie Cooper

Jessie Cooper

'I got to learn all about the origins and theories behind the music I loved playing...'

Sarah Pownall

Sarah Pownall

'I feel that I am going to graduate with a well-rounded knowledge of music...'