Musical Family

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Christine and Catherine Bowie left St Cuthbert’s College in the 1980s and headed off to Paris to become world-renowned musicians.

Now the Bowie sisters have come full circle because their daughters are students at the College.

Christine’s daughter Estelle Lee, 11, a keen trumpet player, has started in Year 7. Catherine’s daughter Ciara Wynn, 10, who is in Year 6, plays oboe and began at St Cuthbert’s in 2015.

Their immensely talented mums flourished as musicians at the school. Christine, who is third chair viola with the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra, said: “We were very involved in the orchestras and the choirs, but it wasn’t such a cool thing in those days.” Catherine, who was principal flute with the APO until 2013 and now coaches privately, added: “We’d be practising while the other girls would be walking up and down Queen Street.”

Christine said: “We didn’t care. I think the environment of encouraging creativity here has been good for us. A lot of schools don’t have the facilities or the inclination to encourage creativity.” Music certainly runs in the family: Christine’s husband Martin plays Oboe and Coranglais with the APO.

After leaving St Cuthbert’s, Catherine studied at the Paris Conservatoire and was a founding member of classical contemporary ensemble Court-Circuit. Christine also went to the Paris Conservatoire and played with Court-Circuit to great acclaim. Both women speak fluent French.

Catherine cherishes her time at the College: “There was a fantastic French department and that was very useful when I went to France as an 18-year-old. The music department was strong and, as a girl, I was taking part in all of these competitions and it was a perfect platform to play your programme; it was a really good experience.

“We had a very encouraging audience and it’s still that way. The Performing Arts Centre is a gorgeous facility and it’s in full use.”

Daughter Ciara has immersed herself in the College’s music and singing programmes winning the gold award at The Kids Sing 2017 with the Blackwatch Singers. Catherine said: “All the singing teachers are fantastic and charismatic and great mentors. There is always an audible buzz when they come out of rehearsals.”

Ciara added: “It’s really a positive environment to learn in and everyone is so happy and welcoming and everything is so exuberant.”