June Pitman-Hayes is a creative writer, singer-songwriter, lyricist, poet, and the author/musician of Tāwhirimātea, A Song For Matariki and Kia Ora – You can be a Kiwi too (Published by Scholastic, 2017 & 2018 respectively).
Of Ngāpuhi, Ngāti Wai, Ngāti Pūkenga and Ngāti Maniapoto descent, June was brought up in Tamaterau, a small coastal settlement along Whangarei harbour. From an early age, her grandmother Tiria encouraged her to explore her surroundings and develop an appreciation for the natural world, while her mother encouraged her natural talent for music and singing.
Educated in Whangarei at Onerahi Primary School, Whangarei Intermediate School & Whangarei Girls’ High School, Pitman-Hayes always gravitated toward the creative arts. Pitman-Hayes wrote poetry with her friends, as well as creating original music and lyrics. Together, they formed a band and performed to students during Friday lunch-time sessions. Although from small beginnings, Pitman-Hayes continued her musical career, which now spans over 30 years in the New Zealand music industry, predominantly as a jazz singer. In 2016 Pitman-Hayes became the musical voice for Joy Cowley’s Hush: A Kiwi Lullaby.
Throughout the years, Pitman-Hayes’ passion for writing has been presented in many forms. She has explored short story writing, lyrics, journaling, and blogging her travel adventures. This prompted her to enrol as an extramural student at Massey University where she studied towards a Bachelor of Arts degree, majoring in English. Pitman-Hayes studied a variety of courses including Creative Writing and New Zealand Writers & Their Regions.
In 2012 Pitman-Hayes decided to explore songwriting, which took her on a year-long creative journey culminating in 2013 with the release of her first original album of music entitled 'June Hayes – Journey for the Return Home.'
In 2015 June was asked if she would teach singing to the children of Meraki Montessori School in Wainui, and could she include some Māori culture in her lessons. This would be the catalyst for what has and continues to be an ongoing endeavor for Pitman-Hayes.
Pitman-Hayes’s quest to find suitable Te Reo Māori waiata for primary school aged children revealed fairly limited availability and sometimes lyrically inappropriate resources. Pitman-Hayes was searching for waiata that were light, meaningful, and which would easily engage the children.
Through this exploration, Pitman-Hayes was inspired to write her first children’s book, Tāwhirimātea, A Song for Matariki in June 2015. The melody and lyric of this book presented itself easily for Pitman-Hayes, and the children of Meraki Montessori School loved Tāwhirimātea immediately. Upon the creation of the song, Pitman-Hayes felt a need to continue creating special taonga.
Having observed how quickly the children learned and gained understanding through the Tāwhirimātea waiata, Pitman-Hayes realised it held the potential to be transformed into an illustrated children’s book with music. A few months later, she submitted a proposal to Scholastic NZ, and in 2017 Tāwhirimātea, A Song for Matariki was published as one of the 2017 new releases.
Later that same year, Scholastic asked Pitman-Hayes to write another book with a focus on embracing our multi-cultural society. In September 2018 her second book with music Kia Ora – You can be a Kiwi too was released, and went into the Top 10 Best Sellers List within three weeks from publication.
Currently, Pitman-Hayes is writing the sequel to Kia Ora – You can be a Kiwi too, and its publication is planned for 2019.
Pitman-Hayes' future goals in writing are to continue to create and publish books with music for children, to complete writing the collection of poetry she is currently working on, and ultimately to one day write her mother’s story of living with mental unwellness.
June answers some questions from Lynfield Kāhui Ako staff and students