It took two strokes and a cardiac condition to remind Antonio Tutapu he needed to listen to his heart again.
After a decade of long hours in roading operations, Antonio aka “Toots”, took the first step as he walked in to Te Wānanga o Aotearoa and asked; 'have you got a music programme?'
Fast forward to today and instead of managing motorway sites, he's looking after stage crews in show-business.
"I wanted to follow my passion and my love of music," says the Cook Island soundman.
In 2015, he got on board the Certificate of Māori Performing Arts (CMPA) - Music programme with Sam Taylor, after first completing a level three Kawai Raupapa Certificate in Art with Lisa Cave in 2014.
"Ever since I was a little kid, all I wanted to do was live sound," says Toots.
The father of seven and koro to 13 mokopuna has dabbled in music all his life, including involvement in setting up the South Auckland record label Noble Savage.
Through the CMPA 36-week level four qualification, he was able to focus on contemporary popular music, playing guitar, reading music and writing songs as well as learning about pepeha and whakapapa.
"I loved it so much. I loved the aroha Te Wānanga o Aotearoa gave me. They made me feel so comfortable, I just felt at ease - not stuck out like a sore thumb."
He did have some challenges however.
"When you come here they make you feel good, everyone's got a smile. My tutors would say 'Everyone's got a voice, everyone can sing,' but when I got up on stage my classmates would say, 'You can't sing!'."
Apart from being offended, he concentrated on what he did excel at; setting up the stage, the sound system, the lights and everything else needed to get the show on the road.
Toots says it was this ability with his technical experience that led him to further study live sound and event production at the Music and Audio Institute of New Zealand.
"If I never came here (TWoA) I would've been lost at MAINZ. Besides, who wants to go elsewhere and pay all that money. At the wānanga you get to know your stuff," he says.
"I was setting up stages for events and class and then went on to do sound for OMAC (Otara Music Arts Centre) and stage manage community events."
The opportunities continued to flow with stints touring the North Island as a stage manager for Rockquest and Pacifica Beats.
Now the corporate touring companies call him to set up the extremely expensive band equipment at concerts like Coldplay or contract him to make sure the layout runs smoothly at events like the Māori Sports Awards.
"Going back to study was the best thing I ever did," he smiles widely.
"I'm back to the crazy hours, but at least it's for something that I love."
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