Showing off their forte: With teacher Chaz Barcenilla preparing for tomorrow's recital are, back row from left, Mischa Thomlinson (vocals), 10, Isla Murray (piano), 8, Myffy Wood (vocals), 12, Bella Thomlinson (piano), 13. Front row, from, left, are Stella Potter (piano), 7, Jasmin Obermoser (piano), 8, and Clara Obermoser (piano), 7; absent Harry Ramsay (piano and vocals), 11


Teaching by Skype or Zoom became all the rage during lockdown this year.

But for a Queenstown-based piano and vocal teacher, eight of whose local students perform in a recital this Sunday, that’s old hat.

Chaz Barcenilla moved permanently to the resort in September last year from the United States and has since continued teaching his US students, and some in Japan, by Skype.

He’s currently teaching 67 intermediate to advanced students in that fashion, along with 12 in person in his adopted hometown.

Arriving with very impressive teaching credentials, Barcenilla’s played the piano since the age of four and sung since he was seven. He says learning by Skype is good for ear training.

‘‘For the beginners I have here, it’s all studio lessons — I wouldn’t want them to have Skype lessons.

‘‘But as they progress they become more adept, they become more able to listen to instructions.

‘‘When you have a director of an orchestra, he doesn’t come to you, he talks to you from the pulpit, and you’re expected to follow, because if you don’t have sharp ears, you’re not a musician.’’

Barcenilla’s Skype students are primarily based in San Diego, Los Angeles and New York.

Often there’s only a three-hour time difference between New Zealand and the US, albeit a day apart, though in our winter that gap’s sometimes five hours, and he can be starting lessons at 3am.

‘‘I’m pretty much working 11 to 13 hours a day.’’

If it was still easy to travel internationally, he’d only be seeing his students in the three-week build-up to a show.

‘‘I have three really good ones I was going to bring over from Queenstown, but once Covid struck in America, we couldn’t go.’’

Barcenilla, who heads a US-based music school, says his philosophy’s always based on a student’s interests, and sustaining that.

When a child learns each moment of time, ‘‘that’s going to ignite more achievement — ‘I can show this to my parents, I can show this to someone’.

‘‘And that’s the kind of self-pride that’s very important without making it strenuous, without making it a chore.’’

Half Asian/Filipino, half Cuban/Spanish, Barcenilla, 55, was brought up in Sydney till the age of 16, and has since lived in the US, Canada and Europe.

He first moved to Queenstown in January last year, but till September moved every two weeks between here and the US.

He chose Queenstown as he wanted to live in NZ, ‘‘and obviously this is the most beautiful part’’.

‘‘I’ve always loved the idea of having four seasons in one day, and then there’s the rainbows all the time.’’

For Sunday’s recital he’s chosen to start at 3pm so it fits in between the two Events Centre Christmas shows.

Eight of his students will perform — three on vocals and five on piano.

One seven-year-old student’s only had three lessons — ‘‘I want to show that with three lessons, a child that young can play already’’.

The pianists will mainly perform classical music.

‘‘My singers will do contemporary, like Adele, Sia, Mariah Carey, they’ll also do some Christmas songs.’

Student recital, piano and vocal, QPACT rooms, corner Ballarat/Henry Streets, Sunday 3pm, free