Music Notation Software

St John's College uses Noteflight online cloud based software for all curriculum music writing courses. Follow this URL link to access St John's College Noteflight account:

Extracurricular Music

The Music programme at St John's College punches well above its weight. It boasts a staff of breathtaking talent, and offers stunning performance opportunities regionally and internationally. The Itinerant Music Programme produces dazzling young talent and is so popular that outside agencies have been employed to cater for the demand of students seeking professional music tuition.

Music Groups

Liturgy Group

St John's College special character is supported in music by the Liturgy Group. The group varies in size and instrumentation due to Liturgy being held during lesson time which may conflict with academic demands placed on the students. The Liturgy Group plays at Mass, be it in a classroom, school library or in the Cathedral, and supports special assemblies. The students in the group are generally the most advanced music students in school, and the group is managed by student leaders and senior Music students. The Liturgy group rehearses in the Music Department during breaks.

Concert Band 

Concert Band performing to St Paul's College, Ponsonby 2015

The Concert Band amalgamated with sister school, Sacred Heart Girls' College in 2008, to participate at the New Zealand Concert Band Association National Festival in Wellington. From there the band has steadily developed and become increasingly active. The concert band supports school activities and participates in local and national band festivals. The concert band is central to the co-curricular and extra-curricular music programmes and perennially the largest and most influential school ensemble. The band's conductor, Mr. Stewart Stanbridge, rehearses the band in the Hamilton City Band Room on Mondays, straight after school.


The Combined Choir of Sacred Heart Girls' College and St John's College at the Waikato District Health Board Chaplaincy Concert, August 2015

The choir of St John's College was established late 2012 and immediately supported the 50th Jubilee celebrations of St John's. The choir quickly developed a repertoire for the music trip to New York mid 2012 and sang in their first national choral festival earlier that year at Waikato/Bay of Plenty regional heats of The Big Sing in Tauranga.   In 2014 they toured to Samoa and where their performances were very well received, and also participated in the regional Big Sing, taking out a commended award.   In 2015 and 2017 they received a Highly Commended at the Big Sing, and have represented the school in performance io numerous occasions, such as The Waikato Hospital Chaplaincy Concert and in a workshop with the NZ Youth Choir.

Irish Ceilidh Group

The Ceilidh Group plays Irish folk music. It has a lead violin, a violin section, acoustic guitars, a bass, and sometimes light percussion. A member of the band will sing on occasion. The Ceilidh group is historically the most significant ensemble of the extra-curricular music programme. Over the years it has instilled a special flavor into the character of the school. The group was established in the early 1990s and had been maintained continuously over the years by Mr Ross Boyce, its founder and leader. Since 2018 Mrs McHugh has lead the group playing Irish flute.The Ceilidh group is the most accomplished and "authentic" product of the extra-curricular music programme with regular public performances.

Guitar Group

The Guitar Group performing in St Helen Parish, Westfield, New Jersey, USA 2012

The Guitar Group was formed mid 2009 by Mr. Nathan Aish and was immediately successful with dynamic and award winning performances at local and national festivals. In the group are a bass guitar, drum kit, and 10 electric-acoustic guitars. The Guitar Group is the most technically advanced ensemble in the school and being so appealing among the students, quickly made its place as the jewel in the crown of the extra-curricular music programme. Their reputation is steadily growing, as are the demands for performances.

Acoustic Guitars

Acoustic Guitars eprforing to St Paul's College, Ponsonby 2015


The orchestra replaced the concert band in 2016 and plays an important role in preparing students who are serious about their performance and taking it beyond high school. With its wide range of instruments, the orchestra is the main school ensemble in which the boys may develop their musicianship.

Drum Corps

Drum Corps at 2016 Itinerant Music Festival, Waikato

The drum corps has 11 percussion instruments and is based on the US style of drums corps or drum line. Mr Adrian Hayward specialises in percussion ensembles and has established the St John's College drum corps as a leading school music pursuit. It is very popular and is oversubscribed with an auxiliary drum corps created to cater for the overflow of interested students. The instrumentation is; nine snare drums, two quad toms, three pairs of hand cymbals (large medium & small) and four bass drums (large, 2 x medium & small). Drum corps membership is very accessible and appeals to all students.

Jazz Group

The Jazz Group changes format year to year. It has been a full jazz band at times and a rhythm section with saxophones at others. The jazz band is at its strongest when preparing for a major activity, rather than ongoing and seamless in its membership.

Music Lessons

The college offers instrumental performance lessons through visiting specialists. These peripatetic tutors generally teach small groups of two and three students at a time. Instruments taught include guitar, drums, piano, symphonic wind (brass & woodwind), and orchestral strings (violin etc.). The Music programme is very popular and is oversubscribed to excess. The system cannot provide enough Ministry funded lessons for the demand of students seeking lessons. Private tutors giving user-pays lessons take on the potential waiting lists.

There are two types of musical instrument tuition available at St John's. They are:

  • Itinerant lessons where a tutor visits school and organizes school ensembles as well as teaches a handful of students. These tutors are employed by the Ministry of Education and the lessons are free, and
  • Private lessons where a tutor visits the school and provides private lessons to the students. These lessons are user-pays and the tutors have designed their package especially to suit the needs of St John's boys including pricing and repertoire preparation.


Classroom Teachers and Co-Curricular Staff

  Mrs Donna McHugh is Head of Music and is responsible for all aspects of the Music Department and the programme including co-curricular and extra-curricular. She is primarily a classroom teacher but organises and administers out of classroom rich learning activities.
Mr Nathan Aish prepares some of the most senior boys for NCEA perfomance and is responsible for the college guitar group. The senior guitar group repersents the best musical talent in the school. With high demand for places in the group, it is the most difficult school ensemble into which boys can become members. There are up to 10 guitarists, a bass and percussion.
Mr Ross Boyce created the Ceilidh group in the late 1980s and leads it today. It is through Mr Boyce's efforts, the group has become historically significant and is a large part of the college psyche.
Mr Alan Grady is one of New Zealand’s foremost drummers with extensive experience in professional performance. Apart from teaching the technique of drumming, he also has valuable life experiences that he can pass onto our boys as they grow instrumentally and mature in musicianship. Alan develops students' skills for NCEA performance assessment and beyond.
Mr Adrian Hayward prepares our most senior drummers for performance assessments and trains the American style drum corps/drum line. Adrian develops students' skills for performance assessment.
Mr Chris Nation tutors all the orchestral strings, primarily violin but also the whole string family including viola, cello and bass. He teaches up to Year 13, Level 3 NCEA. Chris also prepares and directs the various string groups. He develops students' skills for NCEA performance assessment. Chris established and maintains the school's acoustic guitar group. The group can be as large as 40 guitarists using all of the school's guitars, and can utilise both of the school's acoustic bass guitars.
Mr Stewart Stanbridge also teaches at St John’s sister school, Sacred Heart Girls’ College. He prepares and directs the combined colleges' concert band. He tutors orchestral wind including all woodwind and brass. Stewart develops students' skills for NCEA performance assessment. Stewart is dedicated to offering our boys the best possible performance opportunities and richest learning experiences. 

Mrs Jayne Tankersley is responsible for the choral programme at the College. Mrs Tankersley, a soprano, has a Masters degree in Vocal Performance from the Longy School of Music, Boston. She performs regularly around New Zealand as a soloist, with orchestras, and in choirs, and tours with her early music ensemble Affetto. She has many years of choral directing experience. Mrs Tankersley coaches the combined choir of St John’s College and Sacred Heart Girls’ College, ‘Per Christe Canimus.’ 

Stu Edwards of Allmusic Guitar Tuition tutors a large number of our boys in guitar. There are more guitarists than any other instrument being learnt at St John's College. Allmusic Guitar Tuition has a specially designed programme for our needs that fully prepares students for performance assessment at all levels. Boys learn a new piece of music each week with the technical demands steadily increasing, and a careful and thoughtful balance between personal ability and the requirements of NCEA.

Nathan Bregmen teaches drums. Specialising in drum kit, he comes to St John's College with expertise in African Drumming as well as a percussion programme that especially targets students at risk. He has made his user-pays lessons accessible by teaching in small groups. He often has three boys learning simultaneously, each in their own neighbouring drum studio.

Mrs Michele Wahrlich teaches piano. She is also a violinist with the leading local chamber orchestra and her technical proficiency is beyond reproach. Her judgment with pacing the boys' progress is uncanny and her accomplishments with her charges are testament to her teaching skills. Michele develops students' skills for NCEA performance assessment and beyond.


Snapshots of the Music Department

Above: Sacred Heart Girls' Ciollege and St John's College combined concert band at the 2013 NZ Concert Band Assn Festival, Bethlehem, Tauranga

Above: The Senior Guitar Group 2011 to 2013


Above: The Irish Ceilidh Group specialising in Irish folk music.

Above: Choir at The Big Sing 2012 in Bethlehem, Tauranga