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Student story

Grace Millar

20 July 2023

Ngāpuhi, Ngāti Kahungunu

"I want to spread the word of how music is so important, beneficial and essential..."


(Ngāpuhi, Ngāti Kahungunu)

Bachelor of Music in Performance

Bachelor of Music with Honours

Music Specialist, The Champion Centre, Burwood Hospital

Retail Assistant, Sedley Wells Music Works

"Music has been a huge and important part of my life and childhood and I always knew from a very young age it was all I wanted," Grace says.

Growing up surrounded by musical influences, Grace quickly developed a passion for performance, starting piano lessons from a young age and discovering a love for singing in high school. One of her more defining moments was the opportunity to attend a two-week course with the New Zealand Singing School, learning from performers from all over the world.

"I realised then that I wanted a career in music," she says. "Music is complicated, beautiful and emotional much like life. My main motivation to study and continue to strive is all due to the passion music inspires within me."

Choosing UC for her Performance studies, Grace has thoroughly enjoyed her time here with opportunities to share her music.

"Attending UC was the best decision of my life because it nurtured my passion and led me to the career I want to pursue. UC is a beautiful campus and the School of Music has amazing and supportive staff."

She has found that UC’s Music degree offers a wide background in course options, allowing her to try out different music career possibilities.

"I have attended lectures in many different fields of music such as world music, community music and song writing,’ she says. ‘My degree is in performance, singing, and I attend weekly singing lessons and masterclasses with an amazing teacher, Zara Ballara, and accompanist, Iola Shelley."

Indeed, her favourite part of her Music degree is the opportunity to learn under world-renowned performers, songwriters and composers.

"The School of Music allows students to attend free workshops and attend subsidised concerts and professional shows," she says. "I have had the privilege of having lessons and masterclasses with well-known New Zealand performers such as Jennifer Ward-Lealand and have been given many performance opportunities that have allowed me to grow as a performer and as a person."

Grace has performed for UC’s graduation ceremonies and official School of Music events, and collaborating with other students, doing Music and studies from other areas, has also been a highlight.

Support from the School of Music and the UC Health Centre has been important for Grace getting where she is today, after experiencing health issues and her mother passing away during study.

"The whole time the staff at the Health Centre and the staff within the School of Music supported me. Knowing the support was always there allowed me to focus on my studies and know I was going to be okay," she says.

As such, Grace was able to make the most of an internship opportunity with the MUSA 396 course in her third year, working at The Champion Centre at Burwood Hospital, in a rewarding early intervention programme.

She was able to work alongside music specialist Julie Wylie within the Learning Through Musical Play programme, which develops young children with disabilities through music, as a form of therapy. Grace was able to participate in the group music sessions with children and parents, and also helped in the creation of a training video for the programme.

Grace credits the opportunity and a lot of her success to the Head of the School of Music, Professor Glenda Keam.

"She is a wonderful mentor who strives to connect the School of Music to the rest of Christchurch creating an amazing community-based program," she says. "With her constant support and guidance I was able to connect with The Champion Centre and follow my passion."

From this experience, Grace has a new career path in mind than she had originally imagined.

"Currently my career goal is to become a leading music specialist in the field of musical play therapy. Helping at the Champion Centre and the many opportunities and possibilities for research have given me a passion in a field I had never considered before beginning the internship."

"I want to learn as much as I can about musical play and then be able to work to promote musical play overseas. I want to spread the word of how music is so important, beneficial and essential to human life and the impact it has in a therapeutic situation."

With such a far-reaching goal, Grace feels she owes a lot to her teachers at UC for giving her such a strong start.

"I love UC. During my three years at University I have had the best time, experiencing new things, discovering life and finding my passion. I have been nurtured and supported my whole journey and I will never be able to express how grateful I am. I am so excited for the future challenges I will face and continuing next year with my studies."

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