Howie McGuire at Kohupātiki marae. Photo: Florence Charvin
Howie McGuire at Kohupātiki marae. Photo: Florence Charvin

[As published in September/October BayBuzz magazine.]

“Nāku te rourou, nāu te rourou ka ora ai te iwi.”

“With your basket and my basket, we will thrive.”

This ancient Māori whakatauki calls for everyone to come together and share their collective strengths. Strengths that form a powerful bond that will realise extraordinary outcomes. And – most importantly – outcomes accessible to all.

This is the mantra of the ninth Hawke’s Bay Arts Festival.

And exemplifies its underlying message woven by the strands of the fifteen days of performance art as it takes you on a journey of culture, discovery, and upliftment … one richly bestowed with Polynesian talent.

That underlying message has much to do with having the advice of a Pou Ārahi.

A Pou Ārahi provides a bridge between two cultures; his or her focus is on embedding Te Ao Māori values and encouraging the use of Te Ao Māori, fostering an organisational culture that promotes inclusion, cultural competence, strong ethical practices, and accountability by providing expert cultural advice.

Used now in many and very widely diverse areas, ranging from business to education and even the Department of Corrections, Hawke’s Bay is also one of three key trial areas that are part of a four-year programme based on the philosophy of Pou Ārihi. 

Meet Howard ‘Howie’ McGuire

Howie is the Pou Ārahi for Arts Inc. and the ninth Hawke’s Bay Arts Festival. He came to Arts Inc. literally by osmosis. Mere Boynton who is well versed in all things Toi Māori, had been helping both Pitsch Leiser, the festival director and Andy Heast, chair of Arts Inc.

Howie recounts, “Pitsch and I spoke some years ago about becoming a part of the Festival and I was really interested – then Mere Boynton moved here, and she was the absolute right fit for the festival … We knew each other from Wellington days, and I had worked with her. Then Mere moved on and Pitsch got in touch, and I started adding Kaupapa Māori in subtle ways to the festival. It was really to ignite that Māoridom space – that’s what makes it so special and provides another perspective.”

Pitsch and Andy are responsible for the production of the festival – and conscious of the importance of community appeal. Obviously, they have a strong vested interest in the festival’s outcomes; their concerns being not only talent and performance but that those performances draw the crowds. There McKayis also the underlying issue of ensuring the subtle principles of anything related to Māoridom are adhered to. 

“I’ve always been a fan of Pitsch’s programming, even though he is not from here, he just seems to instinctively know. And Andy too. They both have these inbuilt antennae. But there are still some sensitivities that only someone who has been brought up in a marae/Te Ao Māori would be aware of and it is my job to ease those out. 

So, what is the experience that makes Howie such an able contributor to the Festival?

Entertainer and entrepreneur

Howie’s talents lie in the broad structure of musical entertainment. He has a beautiful voice, so he plotted his career path to be in performance art, with care. “A career as a soloist singing at events put on by corporates means you need your wits about you,” explains Howie, who has had great success in his chosen direction. Whether it be a solo performance for a select and small group of customers or a big event, contracts are detailed “and for those I too have to be savvy about the business end,” he continues. “So, my experience has been not only in the musical area but also very strongly involved in the business side.” 

The festival mission is to entertain, uplift and educate – the added value of having someone on board who understands finance is that the tills at the end of the day need to ring. And ring. “And having that extra string to my bow is valuable.”

Howie’s beginnings were typical of the Māori way of life. “I was born and raised here – my mother is from the Kohupātiki marae down the road from Pākowhai on the lower reaches of Te Awa o Mokotūāraro. Its principal hapū is Ngāti Hori of Ngāti Kahungunu. Dad is from Ngati Porou and Rongowhakaata.

“As a child most of my days I spent on the marae with my Kuia, her daughters – my mother and her sisters – who all ran a tight ship. What can I say, I come from a matriarchal whānau everything was polished by hand, floors, linen starched and flowers in crystal vases and bowls adorned with pūhā, karengo (seaweed), pātiki (flounder) and on the odd occasion tītī (mutton bird), and fresh rēwana with real butter.

“Music was a huge part of my life. My mother and my grandmother sang in the Heretaunga Māori Choir.” (Another great musical export of Hawke’s Bay, they travelled internationally during the 30s & 50s.) “They both played the piano as did my older brother and younger sister.” (He is one of four siblings.) Then there were the many aunties and uncles who played both the piano and the guitar.

Ready to sing
“My music theory training started at high school; performance started with kapa haka on the marae and then school. But singing is my area of the music world and naturally I was in the school choir and played in school bands and school musicals. Following on from school I went to EIT where I completed a Diploma of Performing Arts Voice. From there I went to the Conservatorium of Music (now NZ School of Music, Te Kōkī) in Wellington where I studied performance majoring in voice. All in all I spent five years focusing on music and after Uni – I was ready to sing! 

Like most singers Howie joined the local choirs, New Zealand Opera for a while, Gilbert and Sullivan Society, and performed as a soloist with Orchestra Wellington on occasions. And during this period, he was fortunate to be introduced to an exceptional group of musicians within the orchestra. “Each of us hailed from diverse cultural backgrounds and this experience played a pivotal role in shaping my musical aspirations. Not only did it deepen my comprehension of musical genres but also expanded my reverence for the language of music – that transcends boundaries,” he comments with feeling. 

“When I look back at this experience some twenty odd years ago, at the very core of it is waiata Māori (māori songs I had grown up singing) but what made this more exciting was I was being me, with an operatic voice, singing waiata Māori with a string quartet and a percussionist. I was preparing myself for a career as a freelance singer catering to anyone who needed entertainment.”

The business side

Howie was aware, however, of the need to be prepared from a business perspective if he expected to make his career in the music world. 

Like most students, throughout his studying he took on casual jobs. One that was to have a strong influence was with Westpac Stadium working in hospitality – “a pretty big organisation which was the ideal package for me if I was to be in that world.” The Westpac Stadium was to be a stable passage of work for him for about seven years. During that time – while working his way up the ladder – he was also studying and came away ‘with a piece of paper’. Namely a graduate diploma in business management. 

That path he plotted also included hospitality. “Well, think about it – if you are singing for a corporate’s special event, guests need to be well hosted – so ‘wining and dining’ included the crème de la crème – I did get involved in that and I learned a lot from it.” 

He moved into a role in hospitality at Te Papa Museum, at that time involved with the world premier of Lord of the Rings – “putting out the red carpet for the world stars was something else – Liv Tyler, Elijah Wood, Viggo Mortensen, Cate Blanchett, Ian McKellen, Orlando Bloom, Hugo Weaving were part of the ensemble cast – a lot of stories I could tell about that time!” he laughs. 

That was before he returned to Westpac, which had been taken over by a new hospitality company “and the new general manager was an old colleague. I became Corporate Hospitality Services Manager – and I really learned the ropes – that kind of training stretched my accomplishments within the arts world. I learned how to produce shows and establish professional connections with clients in a business-oriented manner.” 

His journey encompassed participation and performance in events like the NZ Arts Festival, along with serving as an Events Contractor for Wellington City Council’s community initiatives. Following his tenure at Westpac Stadium, Howie took charge of a small functions and events venue, which later became the host for the NZ Jazz Festival.

With over twenty years dedicated to studying and working in Wellington’s arts, hospitality, and events sector, you can imagine the wealth of experience that comes with it. 

“And all the time ‘singing for my supper.’ Not always opera – waiata, Gilbert and Sullivan, jazz ballads, Italian and Russian folk songs, German and French arts songs.” 

“I learnt what made a festival look and feel good. Caring for the artists so they feel valued is another point. When you are performing you give it your all – so it is important to show that you appreciate that.”

Just as the Cook Islanders are known as the entertainers of the Pacific, so the region of Hawke’s Bay has a reputation for its communities being great entertainers. “Hastings in particular is recognised for its entertaining with performance art at the centre,” Howie reveals. “Our mana whenua is the foundation. We just know how to entertain.”

And indeed many label Howie ‘a born entertainer,” and will vouch for his many talents.

Now that experience is being tapped by the Arts Festival.

Having met up with Pitsch when the first festival was in its infancy, “even then he and Andy knew well that a regional festival had to reflect the spirit of their community. And what it has become is truly of international standard. But even so there is a need every year to draw people with new thinking – we need to broaden our horizons – and that is where I can help. It is now not only Māori talent that needs to be tapped but there are so many different races and creeds living here – so my thinking must not only be about Māori, but also how that inter-relates with all the others. 

“Making sure the shows are appropriate for our community is another responsibility,” he continues. “Some of the more ‘Avant’ shows particularly. They can be controversial and my job is to be the cultural curator. For example some of the language can often be misconstrued – and we need to be quick to correct that. 

“Really, my role involves working closely with mana whenua and our artists to help inform how we as an organisation move forward together for the benefit of all involved, shaping both our direction and our collaborative approach.”

Given his particular involvement with the many Polynesian artists who will be playing such a strong role of their own during the Festival – obviously what Howie would suggest is of great interest. Here are his recommendations.

Kahurangi! Ahakoa He Iti, He Ponamu!

Kahurangi! Ahakoa He Iti, He Ponamu!
The 40th anniversary celebration of the life works of Kahurangi NZ Maori Dance Company and its founder Tama Huata respected Te Matau-a-Māui arts identity. 

As Howie points out – “This is a top-grade international company. We should be so proud of their talent and skill. They were the first professional dance company to go overseas and be recognised. And they paved the way for all – plus their contribution to tourism in New Zealand is so valuable. Their company really opened the curtains for Māori culture and Tama himself was part of a legacy he gave to Hawke’s Bay. This is a show which cannot be missed.”



Borders disappear and for just over an hour, the theatre becomes a sea of islands. Be transported across an ocean to hear the voices dealing with colonisation, family, climate change, love, sex, religion, power, and tourists.

“Curated by award-winning poet Grace Iwashita-Taylor and led by powerhouse director Fasitua Amosa. UPU is for the trailblazers,” says Howie, “and performed by a stellar cast of some of the best Polynesian actors in Aotearoa today.”

<strong>Ko Au Malosi<strong>

Ko Au: Malosi
A powerful collaborative piece directed by Seidah Tuaoi and Joshua Mitikulena; plus, South Auckland’s Street dance and dancers from the USA and Australia. This is their second time with the festival. Exploring the notion of strength from a New Zealand born Samoan perspective within the context of living in Samoa. “This is an exploration of cultural identity and honouring the land on which we stand.” 


Created as a response to the cyclone. It is free and a ‘must be seen’. 

“Getting the balance right in a festival means creating a future audience – this is it. A selection of 30 local national and international artists have created painting, sculpture, weaving and mixed media to be explored and contemplated as we reposition our thoughts about water.”


Traditional Irish music influenced by jazz, folk, world, and Americana – the band has toured extensively with headline performances at multiple European and American folk festivals. And includes members from Ireland and New Zealand. 

“Every festival there is one that stands out – this is it,” comments Howie.

When Poetry and Song Collide

When Poetry and Song Collide
It has been said that music is poetry of the air, and that poetry is music. This is the story of the magic that happens when poetry and song collide.

From Howie’s perspective – “Kids love poetry – And this is from the best. James K Baxter, Hone Tuwhare, Witi Ihimaera and Katherine Mansfield.” 


A joyful celebration of diversity, Wellington Ballroom brings a one-of-a-kind show capturing the essence and experiences of queer, indigenous people of colour fusing the art form of underground ballroom with the cultures which flow through the performers’ veins.

A winner of several awards “this is a special kind of entertainment which has come out of the Wellington scene and is pretty colourful.”

Theia X Te Kaahu – Girl In A Savage World

Theia X Te Kaahu – Girl In A Savage World
Singer, songwriter Theia is fresh from touring the United States and Canada and also winner of the Taite Prize for Best Independent Debut with her album Te Kaahu O Rangi Theia. She presents songs from the alt pop album alone with dreamy waiata from her award winning project Te Kaahu.

Billboard magazine labelled her as ‘one of the most exciting voices in pop to emerge from New Zealand in the last five years.’ 

The Hawke’s Bay Arts Festival runs from 13-29 October


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