Finn’s biggest gig yet

Finn Hughes music scholarship 2224 DG 001 or 003: Finn Hughes is off to the US in July to take up a musical opportunity of a lifetime. Photo: John Borren.

From banging on drums as a toddler to getting accepted onto a world-renowned music programme in the United States, Finn Hughes is well on his way to the career of his dreams.

The 17-year-old has secured a place on the Aspire Music Programme at Boston’s prestigious Berklee School of Music. The Mount Maunganui College student has been studying drums and piano from a very young age and recently won the Auckland youth jazz competition.

“Getting onto the course is incredible,” says Finn. “I’ve been on a music-related camp here in New Zealand that opened me up to a whole world of musical possibilities for my drum playing. “That was an amazing experience that changed the direction of my music.

“I’m expecting this one to be similar, times ten. I’ll be learning from some of the best in the business and collaborating with other students from around the world.”

The five-week course has in previous years included master classes from musical icons such as Jacob Collier, Victor Wooten and Esperanza Spalding. Not only did the Year 12 student have to pass a rigorous audition process, but he’s also worked hard to raise the NZ$17,000 needed to fund the trip.

“I’m pretty close to the target,” says Finn. “I will need to find the rest myself and I’ll be missing some school when I go in July, but the opportunity is worth it.”

Finn already plays in multiple bands and has studied with many top drummers in NZ and overseas.

“I am super proud of him,” says mum Heidi Hughes. “He gets up before the rest of the household and goes to work on his music. He listens to people who inspire him. He’s curious and learns about beats from other countries. He is really absorbing himself in his craft.”

Finn’s original inspiration was his musician father.

“We were always taking him to music festivals and even driving in the car, we’d talk about the music we were listening to,” says Heidi. “Finn has applied for – and been awarded – several grants for this trip. He’s worked weekends and is tutoring students after-school to raise money. “He’s really found his passion.”

Finn is excited about his future in music but it’s been a frustrating two years. He was booked to play at WOMAD and Cuba Street Carnival with an Afrobeat ensemble, but both were cancelled due to the pandemic.

“I love the idea of making a living from what I love. I want to make my own music and travel. I look at the bands that perform in stadiums in front of thousands of people. There’s nothing quite like performing – especially when you nail the gig.”

To donate to Finn’s trip to the US, visit:


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