In our Meet the Board series we invite you to sit down and learn more about each SOUNZ board member. Today we introduce Board member | Te Poari Kaitiaki Vicki Allpress Hill.
Give a brief introduction about yourself.
I’ve been passionate about bringing the arts to audiences, and audiences to the arts, since I was a child persuading extended family and neighbourhood friends to take part in, or attend, concerts I produced. Having trained in dance and theatre as a child and teenager, it became clear quite early on that I lacked the talent to make a career on stage, but definitely had a penchant for building audiences. I’m currently based in Auckland, living by the sea with my husband and cat.
What do you do outside of your work at SOUNZ?
I’ve been working in arts marketing and audience development for almost three decades now, including senior marketing roles with Chamber Music New Zealand, Royal New Zealand Ballet, New Zealand Opera and English National Ballet. In London and New York I learned to be a digital marketer, working for two of the earliest streaming music providers, Global Music Network and Classical.com. 10 years ago I set up The Audience Connection, an Auckland-based boutique agency helping arts organizations and performers from around the world to utilize digital (and other) tools effectively to connect with their audiences.
I joined the SOUNZ board in the early days of digital marketing. Now I see the SOUNZ staff leading the way in many aspects of using digital to showcase and spread awareness of the music and composers of Aotearoa New Zealand.
Outside of work, I am a passionate arts attender and participator across multiple genres of music, theatre, dance, art and literature. I spend every minute I can in a theatre or concert hall.
What is one of your earliest musical memories?
I now realise how lucky I was to grow up in a household where music was part of our everyday life. Before I came along, my father Barry Allpress had trained as an opera singer and entered many competitions. There is a story that still amazes me – after one competition in Hamilton, my father was handed a note by visiting judge Donald Munro, then based in Australia, asking him to be in contact by telephone when he got home. He clearly had been impressed by Dad’s talent. However, when Dad arrived home, he received the shocking news that his father (my grandfather) had suddenly died. After becoming swept up in that situation, he never made the phone call. I often wonder: could my father have had an international opera career?
Instead, he joined Papatoetoe Light Opera Club, in South Auckland where we lived, and took many of the lead roles over the years. It was part of my childhood to attend rehearsals and performances. My mother also had a beautiful voice and sang constantly around the house. They were both skilled self-taught ballroom dancers, and one of my favourite things as a child was standing on Dad’s feet while he danced with me.
Provide a brief overview of your personal journey with music.
I’m not a musician or composer and am constantly in awe of those who are. I studied piano and ballet as a child and took part in school choirs, but my role in music professionally has been in building audiences. At Chamber Music New Zealand (Music Federation of New Zealand, before our team at the time spearheaded a name and brand image change), I was very much focused on breaking down barriers to attendance and attracting younger and more diverse audiences. This was pre-internet and we launched an 0800-CONCERT number that enabled people to call in and listen to excerpts of the music, one of several initiatives to demystify the art form. After moving to London in 1998 to explore the world and develop my career, I found myself part of the internet boom and learning about ways of disseminating music digitally to audiences. I worked for two of the first companies that offered subscriptions to access classical music playlists and downloads.
During the last decade of running my own business, I have worked with countless music organisations. It is a great joy and privilege to help them to create strategies around utilising digital tools, from social media and live streaming to YouTube and other online platforms.
I haven’t yet given up on my dream of learning to play the violin. Before I moved to London I took some lessons, but my violin still sits enticingly in our cupboard. My husband has recently dusted off his accordion after a few years hiatus – both he and my stepson are accomplished players and it’s lovely to hear him playing this incredible instrument again.
Sometimes I shudder when I ask myself: how would things be if SOUNZ did not exist? In my view, the organisation is essential for the support, awareness, performance and dissemination of the music of Aotearoa New Zealand. I often think about the words of groundbreaking American modern dancer and choreographer, Martha Graham: “There is a vitality, a life force, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique, and if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium; and be lost.”
How many important compositions might not have been written, performed or heard, if SOUNZ and its visionary leaders, staff and funders had not been there advocating for our country’s living composers and songwriters over the years? I’m genuinely proud to have played some small part in the journey of this organisation.
Why is music important in schools?
Going back to my childhood, I think about the role that my parents and other influential adults played in my participation professionally, and on a personal level, in the arts during my life. Now, working every day in audience development, I realise how critical it is for the existence of future audiences and the health of the arts (and our society) that children are encouraged to participate in creative pursuits.
My parents, bless them, came to every performance I was part of and within their limited means encouraged me to appreciate the arts. Not all children are so fortunate and that’s where music and arts in schools are so important.
I remember three particular scenarios as a teenager that were instrumental for my mental health at the time and my later career in the arts. When I was in ‘Form 5’, an English teacher, John Blakey arrived at our school and set up a theatre group, with an annual production. Suddenly ‘non-sporty me’ felt recognised, understood and able to be part of something with like-minded students. I took part in every production and they were the highlights of my year.
At around that time, I was one of three students selected by my school to attend weekly Saturday morning workshops at the nearby Mangere Theatre. These were led by New Zealand performer, story-teller and musician, Apirana Taylor, and (I believe) initiated by Theatre Corporate. I lived for those Saturday mornings and I learned stagecraft and theatre performance skills – my eyes were opened to a wider world and a potential career in the arts. And I was lucky to attend holiday workshops led by Limbs Dance Company, who also came to perform at our school. Instead of looking up to rock musicians, I idolised Mary Jane O’Reilly, Shona McCullagh, Douglas Wright and the other members of Limbs.
Someone somewhere would have initiated these programmes and I can’t thank those visionaries, teachers and artists enough. Whether its dance, theatre, music or any other genre, children need encouragement, guidance and inspiration to take participation in the arts into their adult life.
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