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First NZ Idol teaching teens in Waikato

First NZ Idol teaching teens in Waikato

Any New Zealander with access to television in 2004 will, without a doubt, remember Ben Lummis: New Zealand's first-ever 'NZ Idol.'

Following his rapid rise to musical fame nearly a decade ago, Ben spent four years touring the world with his music before settling in Auckland to pursue a rather different, but equally heartfelt passion.

For the past seven years Ben has given his all to youth social work at Auckland's Horizons Trust; a role he affectionately describes as "helping wayward teenage boys sort themselves out."

This month, however, the household name from long-ago arrived in the Waikato to embark on a new step in his career journey: one that, for the first time in his life, will combine both music and youth.

In what he calls a "leap of faith," Ben has launched into a role as lead tutor for a new course called '#Ultimate Music' offered by private training provider TrainMe in Hamilton.

"This is a daunting but very exciting step. Basically, I am walking into a position where my love for music and my desire to walk with youth are combined on a daily basis," he said.

According to Ben, the free 20-week course is designed to give 16-19 year-old students who are disengaged with the schooling system a taste of the music industry.

"It is tailored to students who enjoy music but have not even achieved NCEA Level 1, typically dislike school, and for some, the prospect of further education is bleak.

"Essentially it's an Employment Skills Level 1 course with a music twist. Students learn about such things as health and safety, first aid, numeracy and literacy – but all in a musical context.

"For example, when I'm teaching them health and safety, I might put it in the context of training them how to set up for a concert. It's about being creative and engaging them."

Ben says #Ultimate Music students will learn about 'live' sound, how to write their own songs, and general musical knowledge. They also earn credits for NCEA 1 and gain their driver's licence.

"The goal of the course is to equip students with a National Certificate in Employment Skills Level 1, and build their confidence to move into further music study when they're ready,' he said.

And although the world of teaching is a new one for Ben, he is confident that past experiences will help him to take on the challenges of this new role.

"As a youth social worker I was journeying with the roughest kids. They often had no families, no money and no place to eat.

"What I have learned over the years – through both music and youth social work - is that to make a difference in people's lives it's about meeting them where they are at; working at their learning style and pace."

"What I'm most excited about is seeing students, many of whom will have low self-confidence, achieve. I want to foster their belief that they can do what they put their hearts and minds to. They can bless the world with music," he said.

Already the course has enrolled 18 students for the first 20-week block.

"We've started classes and students are really engaged. We also have space for a couple more students to come on board before the end of July."

Amidst the excitement lies some uncertainty for Ben, his wife, and two kids, who have "very few" connections in this area of New Zealand.

"On many levels, the move doesn't make a lot of sense. In fact it came at a time when I was about to start a new role with Youth Horizons.

"But in a nutshell, my wife and I feel like we are meant to be in the Waikato. And this job aligns perfectly with our Christian values, principles and passions."

Ben's two children aged seven and eight, and wife Megan who is expecting Ben's third child, are living in Auckland until September when they will join him in Hamilton.

"I miss them a lot. But we talk on the phone all the time. They'll be here soon. Together we're excited to take on the Waikato and look forward to the adventure ahead."

Enrolments for Hamilton's debut #Ultimate Music course are underway now and close 31 July. Enrolments are also being taking for TrainMe's 'general' #Ultimate course. Visit for more information.