Our Wellington

News | 28 January 2021

Talented teens jazz up Gardens Magic

Young Wellington jazz band Mel Stevenson is set to shine at Gardens Magic this Friday, with band members excited their friends will be able to see them perform.

Five teenagers standing in a row, holding a sixth teen horizontally, all making funning faces at the camera. The photo is of Wellington jazz band, Mel Stevenson.

The seven high school students are aged 13-16 and many of their shows are at venues with an R18 age restriction.

“We’re really looking forward to playing at Gardens Magic,” the band says. “It’s our biggest gig yet and the family atmosphere suits us and our friends well, as we can’t really get our friends to come to the pub gigs we do.”

Mel Stevenson will take the stage at Gardens Magic, Wellington City Council's iconic summer event, on Friday from 8pm at the Botanic Garden Soundshell.

The band first formed five years ago. Founding members Louis Holland plays trombone, Miro Holland is on trumpet, and Jack Harris is on saxophone. Later to join was Max Ware who plays bass guitar, Nico Buhne who’s on piano, Harry Lentell the drummer, and guitarist Theo Thompson.

They all attend Wellington High School, except Theo who goes to Hutt Valley High School, and are all in Victoria University of Wellington’s Young Musicians Programme.

All band members are multi-instrumentalists and despite their young age, many have known each other for a decade or more and have been playing music for just as long.

“We all got into music in different ways,” the band says. “Listening at home and around town, being inspired by the Wellington Music Centre in Island Bay, and prompts from family, neighbours and friends.

“A couple of us are from music families, and all of us have been lucky enough to have some great teachers along the way.

“We owe a lot to our parents – for organising lessons and doing the taxi-driving – and we know they are really looking forward to the day when one of us gets our full license!”

Mel Stevenson can regularly be found busking at Wellington Waterfront’s Harbourside Market on Sundays.

Six members of the teen jazz band Mel Stevenson, all posing in a white studio, holding their respective instruments.

They have played alongside Wellington ska band Battle-Ska Galactica and with members of the Rodger Fox band, and have performed gigs at Moon, Newtown Social Club, the Island Bay Festival, and private functions at Te Papa.

The band says there's a real sense of community within Aotearoa’s music scene, in which “everyone seems to know everyone”.

Members say they have enjoyed growing up in Wellington, with highlights being the weather, the Santos Churros and Zaafffran: A taste of Morocco food carts at Harbourside Market, and Satay Kingdom.

When asked where the name Mel Stevenson came from, the band gives a mysterious answer.

“At the young age of three, trombone extraordinaire Louis Holland was abducted by aliens. He was taken from his bed in the middle of the night, presumably so as to not disturb anyone around. He was only gone for an hour, but in that time he had all the secrets of music deposited in his brain. When he returned home he had the words ‘Mel Stevenson’ branded onto the underside of his left foot. It later became our band name.”

Follow Mel Stevenson on Facebook and Instagram.