Putting an end to live performance apathy

Putting an end to live performance apathy

NMIT music tutors Doug Stenhouse and Sam Atkins are reviving live music in Nelson. How? With regular gigs by NMIT music students, graduates and alumni. Great for Nelson, great for musos with a thirst for original music, and great for up and coming musicians.

"Each performance is an opportunity for people to listen to music for the sake of music. It's also a great opportunity for our students. There is so much to gain by performing live," says NMIT Contemporary Music tutor Sam Atkins.

Current music students will run each gig from start to finish. They'll experience different roles: stage manager, sound engineer, lighting designer and more. The gigs form an integral part of internal assessment.

The free live performance nights kick off this month. The goal is four per semester. Head to the 'Johnny Cash' auditorium located in G Block. Listen to Fresh FM for updates.

Recreating a culture of music in the heart of Nelson

Each event aims to bring the buzz back to live performance and original music. Something Doug and Sam are both passionate about.

Nelson has watered the seeds of musical development and talent in New Zealand for years. For example, the Nelson School of Music (which is due to reopen this year) is the oldest independent music school in New Zealand. It nurtured the likes of Richie Singleton - former drummer of top 10 chart-topping band The Phoenix Foundation, Mel Parsons who went on to win “Best Country Music Song” at the 2016 NZ Music Awards, and Nick Robinson - member of Shapeshifter.

And Smokefreerockquest. It’s the biggest and most influential nation-wide youth event held in New Zealand. Smokefreerockquest grew from the brains of Nelson residents Pete Rainey and Glenn Common.

Both Doug and Sam have also been part of Nelson’s music culture since its heyday. Sam was a student of The Nelson School of Music programme in 1996 and then a tutor in 1997 before heading to the UK. Doug tutored at The Nelson School of Music in 1998 and then again in 2003 before joining NMIT as Contemporary Music programme coordinator and tutor.

They say the time is ripe for music lovers to experience original music in a small venue environment. Audience and musician together again. Like the good ole days.  

"We want to recreate a culture of music in the heart of Nelson city, but to ensure it remains a simple space for musos. There’s been a traction problem with artists venues in Nelson. Nelson has plenty of pubs and cafes you can perform covers in, but nowhere focused on grassroots original music," says Sam.

"NMIT has no vested interest 'bar' music," adds Doug. By bar music, Doug means covers of the classics - you know, the music that keeps punters drinking and eating. "We don’t need to sell beer or food which means you can play what you want."

Live performance separates the doers from the dreamers

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You're a budding musician and want to practise playing live but what do you have to gain?

Live performance teaches you about preparation. Your songs need to be ready, and by ready we mean in shape. You do this by rehearsing; by fine tuning each element to make the greater whole. You also need to prepare a set list and organise your playing space. You need to think about the experience you want to bring to your performance. Live performance will teach you things you'd be hard pressed to learn any other way. 

Playing live means connecting with strangers via music

Not only are you communicating with your audience, they are communicating with you. Is your message having an impact? Is your delivery effective? What mood have you created and what mood do you sense from your audience? Are they with you? Are they paying close attention to everything you do? You'll learn how to not only entertain but hold attention. Your audience will let you know what works and what doesn’t. That's powerful!

Playing live builds your confidence and may conquer your fears

Being a musician and playing live to an audience are two different things. You may suffer from stage fright or a deep seated fear of rejection. Nine out of ten times, the best way to overcome these fears is to stand up and do the work.

Playing live teaches you about self care and time management

You'll experience the value of having a plan of action for when you step on stage. You'll get better at creating set lists, and building an effective band and ‘event’.

Playing live encourages resourcefulness

You're in the middle of a song and the amp blows, a microphone cuts out, or you forget your lyrics. But, you'll work out a way to keep going. You'll learn how to think on your feet.


The Contemporary Music programmes on offer at NMIT are focused on helping you turn your talent for music into a career as a musician. Real experience, real instruments, real connections, real people.

Learn more about the Diploma in Arts and Media (Contemporary Music)

Learn more about the Certificate in Arts and Media (Contemporary Music)

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