Jazz at New Zealand School of Music

Story by Marcus Jackson

New Zealand School of Music, 2017

Find Your Sound?

“Everyone already has their sound, we don’t need to help them find it.”

So often the vague idea of one’s “sound” comes into play with musicians: how does someone develop their own sound, their own aesthetic? As far as Lance Philip is concerned, students do not need to find it - it is inherent in everything they play, sing, and write.

As the programme director of Jazz at Te Kōkī New Zealand School of Music (NZSM), Lance’s focus is on creating well-rounded students: the kind of students that can go out into the world and make it as professional musicians - in whichever discipline they choose to go for.

Between Two Camps

In 1975, the Wellington Polytechnic Conservatorium of Music was set up by a band of New Zealand Symphony Orchestra players, under the direction of Harry Botham.

With a more conservatorium-style approach, there was a focus on the practicum of music, rather than taking a theoretical approach to study.

While having a strong focus on classical and vocal performance, there was a jazz presence from the beginning. By the mid-1980s, the jazz papers had been expanded, and jazz was offered as a separate programme.

In a particularly nomadic history, the department was initially located at the Mt Cook Campus of the Wellington Polytechnic. In 1988, the department shifted to the decommissioned hospital in Alexandra Road, before returning to its initial spot in Mt Cook in 1998, when Massey took over the Polytechnic.

The Jazz department has only very recently made its way over to Victoria’s Kelburn Campus. Currently the department is housed between the NZSM block on Fairlie Tce and in the Student Union Complex, but Lance has hopes that one day all music students will be under the one roof.

Jazz In Action

  • <p>Jazz students at NZSM. </p>
  • <p>Jazz students at NZSM. </p>
  • <p>Jazz students at NZSM. </p>
  • <p>Jazz students at NZSM. </p>

Lance Philip

Lance’s musical training began at the Wellington Polytechnic. Following study at the Los Angeles Grove School of Music, he returned to Wellington to pass on his love for world percussion.

With six Tui Awards under his belt and a veritable list of co-performances, it is Lance’s versatility that he hopes to pass on to students.

“I see jazz as the root of all contemporary music” he says, pointing out the breadth of skill required of a jazz performer.

As someone who has built a career out of being able to play in a diverse range of styles, he is proud to have a long list of students who have also found their own styles outside of, yet influenced by, jazz.


When asked about the legacy of the Jazz department, it is the students Lance talks about. With an obvious pride in the achievements of his own students, it becomes clear that this is an important facet of the department’s philosophy: to cultivate in students a desire for success.

Looking forward, one of Lance’s big goals for the Jazz programme is to have a faculty ensemble - acting by example to inspire students towards their own personal goals.

“Success means that you are working,” says Lance. In a world where music students often face the “how will you make a living?” question, the Jazz programme is all about producing confident and capable students, able to turn their passion into success.

Find The Jazz Department

Level 2, Student Union Building, Victoria University of Wellington 1 Kelburn Parade, Kelburn, Wellington 6012, New Zealand

Have a Listen!

  • ZOOM0001