Descended from Ngāpuhi, Ngāti Wai, Ngāti Pukenga, Ngāti Maniapoto and English, Scottish, Irish, and Portuguese, June whose family name is Pitman, grew up with an intrinsic flair for all things creative, but music, singing, art and writing is what she is most passionate about. From a very early age, June's mother encouraged her to learn to play the ukelele and fostered her love of singing.
Iconic '60's TV shows like 'Happen Inn' and 'C'mon' had a huge influence on her. June and her sister would head to the bathroom, morph into the persona of 'The Chicks', and in front of the bathroom mirror using hairbrushes as microphones, belt out the latest tunes. One day June's cousin John brought home a beautiful guitar in a traveling case! At every opportunity June would sneak it out and try to teach herself how to play.
At school June naturally gravitated towards anything to do with music. Her High School music teacher opened up the realms of classical music - Beethoven, Rachmaninov, Strauss - The Blue Danube Waltz, and musicals including Porgy & Bess starring NZ's own Inia Te Wiata. Alongside were learnings of popular music by Simon & Garfunkel, Hendrix, Joplin, Cat Stevens, James Taylor, Carole King, Striesand, and the young Michael Jackson, and so many others! Learning about rhythm and timing was intoxicating. Participation in the school choir was a joy, even though one teacher 'shut down' June's growing confidence as a singer when in full voice she launched into the chorus of 'The Age of Aquarius' ! During lunchtimes the bike sheds were a great gathering place for June and her like-minded friends to gather and explore the art of songwriting. These collaborations led to the formation of a 'girl band' that would entertain students in the school hall on Friday lunchtimes, and often after school.
Although she didn't learn to read music, June developed a very good natural musical 'ear', an understanding and appreciation of music composition and orchestration, and a burning desire to become a singer one day.
Life had other plans for June, steering her away from her desire to travel to USA to pursue a music career! Thirty years later encouraged by her daughter, June found her musical 'opening' singing country music, and performing in local musical theatre productions. Her voice was soon discovered, performance opportunities began to open up. Before long she was fronting small group and big band jazz ensembles, establishing herself firmly on New Zealand's music scene as June Hayes - jazz singer.
June has performed with some of New Zealand's finest, and international jazz musicians as well. In the early 2000's after releasing her debut album 'To Whom It May Concern', June was invited to make a
special guest appearance at the Brecon International Jazz Festival in Wales, performing alongside Martin Drew (drummer for the late Oscar Peterson), and Andy Kleindert (then bassist at Ronnie Scott's), and her former husband pianist Barry Clewett.
During 2000 - 2010, June helped Phil Broadhurst and other music tutors to develop events and
build awareness and for Massey University Auckland's NZ School of Music Jazz Studies Department. This saw the creation of the 'Masters & Their Music' workshop/concert event which ran annually for thirteen years, the introduction of a jazz performance programme to the University's Wine & Food Festival, and the creation of the 'one time only' Massey University Secondary School Big Band Competition. In 2007 & 2008 June produced the very successful 'Jazz on the Coast' workshop/performance event in the hope that it would become a catalyst for developing a Hibiscus Coast Winter Festival.
In 2010 a family tragedy resulted in a set back forJune who lost the heart to sing and perform in front of live audiences. June made a decision to go travelling through Europe during the early Summer of 2012, to help her reset, heal, and hopefully restore her love of the creative arts. Perhaps exploring the pathways of classical and contemporary artists, writers, poets, and most importantly, musicians would enable her to find her voice again, and it did. She returned ready to create an album of original music having revisited the songwriter inside while travelling. With an iPad full of lyrics and musical ideas to share with her Producer, June spent the rest of that year developing and recording the album for a January 2013 release.
June says, "The 2013 release of my first ever all original album 'June Hayes - Journey for the return home', was beautiful and challenging in every way. Music and lyrics came straight from the heart. Some tunes were created while travelling, while others arrived in the middle of the night or early dawn in the form of dreams, pushing their way through while in the middle of working on other songs. One or two were inspired by 2012's breaking news! It was quite a bizzare experience, and I often felt out of my depth musically. I had so much to learn! It was a total labour of love, an outpouring of grief for my son, and a remarkable pathway of healing. Each song carries a deeper meaning for me personally. Each is a glimpse into my own life experience'.
in 2015, June began writing waiata for children. Her first attempt lead her to follow gut intuition and the belief that what she had created held potential to be transformed into a children's book with music. She approached Scholastic NZ, a well established and highly reputed publishing company with the idea, submitted a rough demo, and waited. Some months down the track word came that they loved it, and with a little adaptation would be offering a publishing contract.
This was the beginning of June's transition of combining her two top creative passions - music and writing, that would propel her musical career toward a new dimension, that of published author of children's books with music written and sung in Te Reo Māori as well as in English!
Her first book Tawhirimatea, A song for Matariki was published in 2017 and immediately became a best seller.
Kia Ora - You can be a Kiwi too! published in 2018, also a best seller.
My Kiwi Gumboots was published in 2019 in time for Spring.
June's latest work Kia Kaha! Together Standing Strong, published early March 2020, also moved quickly onto NZ Top 10 best sellers list. With numerous reviews, including an appearance on TV3's The Cafe programme to its credit, Kia Kaha was selected for inclusion in the Ministry of Education's Covid-19 learning resources packs.
Currently in the final production stages of another small collection of original tunes which she hopes to release as an EPS during 2020, June says, 'I love what I do, and nothing pleases me more than seeing the happiness my music and writing gives to people'.
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