‘Retired’ music teacher loving creative freedom

He may have retired recently from his longtime role as an “itinerant” music teacher but Peter Skandera reckons he’s simply “shifted gears” rather than come to the end of any road.

“I am surprised at how I’ve managed to live the last 40 years with a fulltime job and still have all these other things waving at me demanding attention,”  the 65 year old laughs. “I’m actually busier than ever.”

That’s saying something considering Peter’s not only taught over the decades at various top Hamilton colleges as well as Raglan Area School – where the likes of Muroki, Lenny, Conor McCabe and Sasha Kirkwood have been among his most recent students – but has also simultaneously run a guitar studio of his own in Hamilton.

Now, he says, there’s time to read those unopened books on his shelves, new skills to learn and other aspects of life to discover. 

At the moment however Peter’s focused on producing music videos for his YouTube channel which, he’s proud to say, has recently hit the 100,000 viewer mark.  Interest is spread across almost all European countries – including Russia and Ukraine – plus the likes of Colombia and Brazil. 

Add in a 21-track album, Blue Grit and Rhyme, which he and fellow Raglan muso Dave Maybee are producing together – a more “rootsy” follow-up to their previous studio album Acoustic Spirit – and it’s obvious there’s little time to spare in Peter’s world.

It’s more a subliminal shift of consciousness, he explains of the change from his professional working days to what has now become a fully self-directed life. He likens it to being the painter in front of a blank canvas. “I am completely free to create whatever I want.”

Peter’s passion for teaching music goes back to his days as a staff guitar specialist at the teacher training college/University of Flensburg in his native Germany. Peter emigrated to New Zealand and settled in Raglan with his then wife Katya back in 1983.

That same year he started with the then Education Department as the Waikato’s first itinerant guitar teacher, visiting secondary schools far and wide – from Huntly to Tokoroa and from the Hauraki Plains to Raglan – on a fixed weekly schedule in his little orange Morris.

Gradually the schedule changed to focus on Hamilton Boys’ High, Girls’ High, Fraser High, Diocesan, Sacred Heart and Raglan Area schools.

Then it morphed into a job where Peter took musical charge of NCEA level 1,2 and 3 students – working on their solo and group performances, rock bands, guitar orchestras, compositions and arrangements. 

Meantime he was also teaching late afternoons and evenings at the guitar studio he and Katya founded in Hamilton, and had a contract teaching tertiary degree guitarists at Vision College in Hamilton East.

It’s been a life fully dedicated to music, this multi-instrumentalist told the Local Rag from his home in Okete Bay, but in particular to guitar-playing. He describes the act of simply holding the wood of the guitar body against his chest as a “transformative” experience.

And he’s equally passionate about his many students over the years, describing them more as soulmates. “I felt a great kinship with those who have come to me as we discover guitar and music together.”

The process is after all both spiritual and emotional, he adds.

Peter is proud of the success of students he’s taught, seeing his role as “lighting and nurturing the flame until it burns independently on its own”.

And while some flames – like Muroki, now a reggae musician in his own right – grow into a wildfire, says Peter, some just simmer quietly with a healthy glow.

He’s satisfied with that. “The main mission in my teaching career was to put wings into people’s hearts through music,” he says modestly.

Peter’s arrival in Raglan way back coincided with the formation of the now legendary Mudsharks, a line-up of local and touring musos who regularly belted out their own brand of rock ‘n’ roll and blues to a packed bar in the Harbour View Hotel.

The gigs were the only live music in town during the ‘80s and Peter performed alongside the likes of iconic bluesman Midge Marsden, Liam Ryan of The Narcs and Dave McArtney of Hello Sailor fame.

They were heady days, he recalls, with the Mudsharks era preserved in the celebrated doco Raglan by the Sea, which aired on national television in 1987.

Peter’s enjoying seeing a new generation create something similar downtown – at ULO’s Kitchen for instance where Freddy Limbert, Ash and Cam and others perform.

“Music culture is not necessarily a given in a small town,” he points out. “There needs to be a certain level of musicianship, community support, a venue and camaraderie.”

Seems like Raglan’s got it all.

by Edith Symes