An entrepreneurial Oamaru couple are celebrating the fifth anniversary of their music venture.
Miriam and Jae Bedford set up the Bedford School of Music from their home in 2012.
Starting with just a handful of students, they now have participants from Palmerston to Omarama and perform all over the central South Island.
The school holds classes and workshops in guitar, voice, bass, drums, piano, and ukulele, and has recently added dance and drama programmes. It has also produced three digital albums, several educational resources and books, and played at hundreds of events.
Its fifth birthday was marked with “The Future is Now Festival 17”, featuring performances from many of the students.
Mr Bedford said there was now strong demand for the school’s brand of education and entertainment at festivals, weddings, and other occasions.
The Bedfords are on stage at tonight’s Oamaru Steam and Fire in the Victorian precinct, and the school is hosting a talent quest at the Woolstore tomorrow morning as part of the 2017 Steampunk NZ Festival.
Next weekend and the one after, it is running karaoke nights at the Waimate Hotel.
Mr Bedford said he and his wife loved what they did, and really enjoyed the school’s family environment. They valued the relationships they have formed with their young students and their parents.
“It’s taken a lot of work. Initially, it was a commerce thing when we first started teaching. But now it’s a vocation, not a huge career path.”
It took time to earn the trust of prospective students, he said.
“Musicians are quite transient people. I know a lot of people didn’t have confidence in us straight away and were wondering ‘are they going to be there in a few years’ time’.”
Mrs Bedford was born and raised here while Mr Bedford grew up in Dunedin. He worked on a dairy farm here in his early 20s, then went “on the road”. The couple lived in Wellington for a time, but Mr Bedford knew Oamaru was “where I wanted to come to recharge”.
Although they get “absolutely exhausted” in the build-up to a concert, they are more than repaid by the “huge victories” their students experience.
“We discovered along the journey that it’s not just about music, it’s social development.
“That’s why we got in the rest of the performing arts. With dance and drama, it’s the same thing.
“It’s beautiful. I get more out of it than the students do.”