Singing's shooting star

  F E A T U R E S   S T O R Y   


Teenage singing sensation Hayley Westenra with her mum and dad "managers," Jill and Gerald Westenra after a stunning performance at the Quest to Queenstown charity concert on Saturday.SUE FEA/The Southland Times

Hayley Westenra does not need to audition for her high school musical. She automatically has the starring role.

It is more a matter of whether or not the 14-year-old singing sensation can fit it in somewhere between New York and Paris.

"They've asked me if I can be around for the school musical at the end of this year, but I'm going overseas then to promote my next CD." Last year she happily starred in the school's version of Romeo and Juliet: "I was just, like, a singer," she said.

One thing is for sure. This talented young natural will never let her rapidly rising stardom go to her head.

The Burnside High year 11 student, who charmed a 3000-strong crowd at Saturday's charity Quest to Queenstown concert, was not fazed about being recognised in the street or in the school corridor.

And performing in front of crowds of up to 250,000? "I've been doing it for so long, it just doesn't seem so daunting now." Next week Hayley and her mum, Jill, take up the offer of lifetime.

Hayley will tour Britain for a month with No 1 British hit classical-crossover star Russell Watson and spend two weeks recording a new CD with Decca Records in Dublin.

She has just returned from performances in Los Angeles, where little sister Sophie (11) and brother Isaac (8) also performed, and Taiwan.

While most mums of teenage daughters are losing sleep on a Saturday night waiting for them to come home, Hayley's mum is likely to be battling jetlag backstage at Carnegie Hall in New York.

Mrs Westenra has already left her fulltime job at the Westenras' Christchurch jewellery store to manage Hayley's busy career and act as chaperone.

"We're struggling to keep up. It's getting that big now that even my husband is finding it hard working (as a gemologist) fulltime," she said.

Most parents only need to fork out for that school formal once a year. For the Westenras it was becoming a regular expense until an Auckland dress designer offered them sponsorship.

The glamorous long outfits she now needs are a far cry from Hayley's first solo role at age 6 in the school Christmas production: "She was very low key about it...she just said she needed to take her ballet gear to school that day." Unbeknown to the producers of that production, aptly named The Little Star, they had unwittingly discovered one.

If she is not in singing lessons with Dame Malvina Major, Hayley is jet-setting about the world dueting with the world's best. She will sing in Paris in June before performing in New York.

But she still finds time to be a normal teenager. "I can still have balance. I can still go out with my friends...most of my friends are into sport and music, so they're busy, too." That long-distance correspondence schoolwork is about to become easier too. "Mum and Dad are getting me a laptop." And as for that unpaid manager Mum – "One day I'll put her in a nice rest home," Hayley teased.

Thanks to GK for sending in this review


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