We chat to John Maurice, father of Renee, the songbird winner of NZ’s Got Talent 2013.
WHAT IS RENEE’S BACKGROUND?
Renee was born in Wellington Hospital on 14th January 1991, we had been sent there as our local hospital didn’t have the capabilities to provide adequate care for a premature birth. At birth, Renee weighed in at 2lb 12ozs at birth (1247gms). Renee has an older brother, Edward, who we adopted 5 years earlier as an infant, because Patrice was told she would not be able to have children. We lived in Picton at the time of Renee’s birth up until 2008.Renee’s early years were beset by tragedy. Over a decade, we lost a total of 18 close family members and friends; until the fateful day in 2001 where we lost two family rocks, Renee’s grandmother and great-uncle, in a crash that nearly claimed Renee as well. As a child, Renee probably wasn’t directly affected initially, but when death visits a family on a regular basis, the mood takes it’s toll on the young ones.
WHAT WERE RENEE’S FAVOURITE THINGS TO DO AS A CHILD?
Animals, dolls and of course music, plus she loved to act.
WHAT THINGS DID YOU ENJOY DOING TOGETHER AS A FAMILY?
Picnics and travelling around the South Island.
WAS RENEE ALWAYS A KEEN SINGER?
Yes, she’s always been a keen singer. She didn’t think about singing as a career, it was more simply something that was a part of her and she just loved to sing and perform to us, her parents. She wanted to be a vet first, then she wanted to be a playwright and songwriter.
WHEN DID YOU REALISE RENEE HAD A REAL TALENT?
We realised as time went on, but even at an early age she was passionate about her singing. She wrote her first song when she was 8-years-old, and we still have that recording. It was probably when she went on the radio with a song we didn’t even know she had written, age 11. She had sung it to her teacher and he rang the radio station. That song was called Picton Gold and was written to thank the people of Picton for surrounding her with love and support after her car crash.
DID RENEE GO TO AFTERSCHOOL SINGING OR MUSIC CLASSES?
Her piano teacher phoned one day, after hearing Renee sing, to suggest we allow her to give Renee singing lessons, which of course we did. From age 10, Renee performed in musical stage shows, and at age 15, wrote a song called War Child for a show of that same name and performed it at the Marlborough Civic Theatre.
WHEN AND WHY DID RENEE JOIN STARJAM?
Renee was a Heart Child, from her coarctation requiring a stent at aged 6. After we went on a camp for Heart Children, where Renee stole the show on the Karaoke, she was asked to perform at a fundraiser in Marlborough and was then invited to join StarJam as a Heart Child, at age 14 .Shortly after, she made her debut performance with her own song ‘I Am Free’ at the 2005 StarJam Stage Show. Little did we realise the enormity of this. It was opened by such dignitaries as the Mayor of Auckland, Dick Hubbard, Mayor of Manukau Barry Curtis and the then Prime minister the Rt. Hon Helen Clark. The auditorium was packed with celebrities and other high-profile members of society. Renee’s song was at the very end of the show and it brought the house down. It’s one of those songs that is nice on it’s own but sung in context is very powerful. Starjam gave an awkward, shy young child a chance to shine on stage and she took that chance with both hands. Nine years on, StarJam is still part of our lives.
WHAT ARE THE QUALITIES YOU THINK ARE MOST IMPORTANT TO INSTILL IN YOUR CHILDREN?
To believe and never stop believing, and teach your children to never ever ever give up. I also believe integrity is huge. It can not be taught, it is only learned by example