Class act: the rise and rise of music at Dilworth

Date: 15 Apr 2023

Dilworth Head of Performing Arts David Stent is turning up the tempo for 2023, with the launch of a revolutionary new Year 7 – 10 Music curriculum and two inaugural school orchestras.

As part of the reinvented curriculum, all Year 10 students will now spend their first six months singing in the Year 10 choir, capping off their efforts at the highly anticipated Big Sing competition. Plus, for the first time in the school’s history, Dilworth will have its own Senior Chamber Orchestra, with plans to create a Symphony Orchestra later in the year.

The new offerings will cement Dilworth’s place as a school of musical excellence and create exciting musical pathways and opportunities for students.

“When I started at Dilworth seven years ago we had a strong reputation for vocal music and lots of young men learning instruments but no ensembles or representation in competitions like the KBB Music Festival,” says David, who immediately embarked on transforming the programme.

David Stent, Head of Performing Arts at Dilworth School

Within the first year he’d started a Senior Big Band (which gained bronze at KBB that same year and last year achieved gold) and implemented a new system requiring every Year 7 student to commit to playing one particular instrument for a minimum of three years. Orchestras and Concert Bands were then created for each year level, providing invaluable motivation for students to practice.

“Knowing you’re part of an orchestra creates impetus to keep working at it. You don’t want to disappoint your section, your ensemble, or your director. And with 95% of students entering Year 7 having never picked up an instrument, they all start from scratch and move through the process together. That shared experience is extremely powerful.”

In his second year David established the school’s first-ever Senior Concert Band, and the competitions amplified. That band took out silver at the KBB Music Festival in its inaugural year.


Dilworth's Band performing with Diocesan School Band, at the KBB Music Festival
“Participating in competitions has a huge impact. Students want to be measured and know how good they are. There’s an audience watching you and you’re also part of an audience watching others.”


Since taking the helm, David has worked tirelessly to transform musical offerings at Dilworth – and the results have been extraordinary.

“So much growth has occurred in the last five years and the level of excitement for where we’re going in the next ten or 20 is extremely high. We have a big vision! There are schools five times the size of Dilworth who are not producing this level of output, and that impacts the whole school culture.”

And although Dilworth is not the only school with top drawer musical offerings, it is the only one that provides scholarships covering the costs of everything.

“That’s what makes it really remarkable. Most of our families can’t sustain the ongoing costs of buying an instrument, paying for lessons, and ferrying boys to and from practices. Without this scholarship many of these young men would never be given the chance to explore music.”

With Dilworth’s support, some of these same young men have gone on to perform on the global stage and pursue successful musical careers - but even for those who don’t, the benefits are vast.

“I know that even if a student doesn’t pursue Music beyond Year 10, they’ll leave Dilworth having learned an instrument and played in an ensemble for at least three years, they’ll have sung in a choir, and they’ll have represented the school at the Auckland Town Hall. Music gives them an experience that will fundamentally change them for the better.”