New Zealand’s Top Music Scholar 2020: Jerry Mataia

Described by those who know him as talented and humble, Jerry Mataia from the Class of 2020 was surprised to learn that he received the Top in Subject award in New Zealand for Music in 2020.

“I was honestly surprised. I didn’t really know how to feel at first but once it settled in, I was excited. I texted my parents and showed my family straight away,” Jerry explains.

Jerry’s musical journey started from the time he was born. He comes from a musical family where everyone has a love and appreciation for music.

 “I have grown up singing items for our church with my siblings. One of my earliest memories relating to music is listening to my grandparents play music while sitting in our dining room.”

This musical upbringing really ignited a passion in Jerry which led to him pursuing the subject at school and really immersing himself in the performing arts.

“I guess music became my passion after watching my family sing together at church or family gatherings. My papa in particular was a really big inspiration for me when it came to music and I have always tried to make him proud of my musical achievements,” said Jerry.

In his final year at Dilworth, Jerry was the Deputy Head Chorister of Fortissimo, having served three years in this choir and representing Dilworth at the National Finale of the Big Sing twice. He was also a part of the Arts Council and helped organise the House Music event and was chosen to play the lead in the Diocesan/Dilworth production of the ‘Little Shop of Horrors’ in 2020. This was a highlight of Jerry’s performing arts journey.

“Being selected for the lead role in the Little Shop of Horrors was definitely a highlight for me despite not being able to perform due to the COVID-19 lockdown. I learnt a lot each practice and gained a lot of confidence in my abilities,” Jerry explains.

Dilworth’s Director of Choral Music and Vocal Studies, Claire Caldwell recalls the transformation she saw in Jerry.

“The catalyst for Jerry was being cast in the school show as the leading man. In his usual humble fashion, Jerry was not expecting this, and doubted his ability. Throughout the process we watched him develop as an artist, and actor and a singer but more importantly, as a young man of character. His sincerity and emotional connection to his work stood him apart to us. This is the strength of the Dilworth experience, that young men discover talents they never knew they had, and the school allows them to explore these in a safe and loving environment. ”

Jerry Mataia (second row from the top, second from the left with a yellow tie) at the 2020 Top Scholars Ceremony at Parliament

Jerry’s passion and dedication to the performing arts, is what ultimately led to him being awarded a colour for performing arts and the Dilworth Senior Campus award for a boy who excels in his chosen instrument. To top this off, earlier this year he found out he was the recipient of Top in Subject award in New Zealand for Music. The New Zealand Scholarship awards are highly prestigious as they require high-level critical thinking and are designed to challenge the very best students. Jerry was invited to the Top Scholar Awards Ceremony hosted at Parliament on 19 May 2021 to receive his award. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and the Minister of Education Hon Chris Hipkins were both in attendance.

Claire Caldwell says that having a Dilworth student receive such a prestigious award really goes to demonstrate the capabilities of the students.

“To have a Dilworth student take out the Top Scholar place in New Zealand is a firm statement that Dilworth boys can achieve anything they set their minds to. Jerry, I believe, didn't set out with this goal in mind, rather he worked steadily all year to better himself, and he was always seeking opportunities to learn, grow and challenge himself,” she said.

As for his future, Jerry has accepted and started a fulltime role at Westpac as part of the Westpac High School Graduate programme. Dilworth has had a number of students participate in this programme who have gone on to work their way up in the organisation.

Despite his love for music and how it makes him feel, Jerry knows that pursuing music at a tertiary level is not for him.

“I love how music makes me feel. When I perform, I feel like I’m telling a story and that I’m in that story as that character. My cousin is going far with his opera music but that isn’t my thing. I want to continue being involved in music but in my own way.”

May 25, 2021