Liger Academy fundraiser featuring Tiny Room concerts

3 minutes read
Posted 30 October, 2023
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The second annual fundraising soiree for Liger Leadership Academy will take place on Thursday. It will feature two bespoke Tiny Room concerts ‘The Red Queen – Arriving in Wonderland’ performed by Charlotte Graf and ‘You’ll Never Be a Singer’ performed by Margaret O’Hanlon, as well as $20,000 worth of auction items.

Liger Leadership Academy is an independent not-for-profit high school in Queenstown. They focus on project-based learning, with children solving real-world challenges and developing leadership and entrepreneurial skills. Last year’s fundraiser was to raise money for some of the students to go on a trip to Liger’s sister school in Cambodia.

“It’s an entirely student-run event and it’s funded through auction items and donations,” Christian Belmont at Liger says. “We had some amazing entertainment last year, and then this year we’re stepping it up with the inclusion of Margaret and her entire team with their amazing show. The fundraising this year is going towards sending our students to competitions and off-site experiences. Whether that’s tech competitions or other competitions and experiences that our students can go to outside of Queenstown all of next year.”

Much of the legwork has been done by the students – from procuring all the auction items to being the main speakers of the event, greeting visitors at the door and ushering them to their seats, and handing out food and beverages – they’re integral to the event from start to finish. Belmont will introduce the night and O’Hanlon and Graf, who are excited to perform at the event and tell their own stories through performance.

“The people from Liger are lovely, and they are fans of our Tiny Room concerts,” O’Hanlon says. “They said that they’d love to do a Tiny Room concert format, which is really chatting with audiences and singing songs around stories, but specifically they wanted Charlotte and I to come up with something no one has seen – something new curated just for them – and also about our stories as performers and how we created what we’re doing in the arts here in Queenstown, and what was our path to that. What was our story?

“For me, I have a lot of avenues I could walk down, but because it really was for the kids. The Liger Academy is very much about empowering kids into recognising their potential and recognising what their dreams are and putting that into action, and manifestation. I thought about my own experience, which was very much along the lines of when I was accepted into the school of performing arts, that my welcoming was not so welcome. They basically were like, 'how did you get here?' They were very discouraging and they literally said to me, 'you'll never be a singer, we think you should take up the piano'."

There were over 600 students at the school, and O’Hanlon says they weren’t interested in wasting any time. She persevered though and says that her stubbornness was part of what pushed her to do better. When she arrived in New Zealand, she noticed a lack of vocal tutors. “The ones that were here were subscribing to that same old mantra, you either have it or you don’t.” As a nervous child herself, she could also understand that most of what’s holding people back is their nerves. Her performance will take the audience through her personal journey and aims to inspire and empower.

Graf’s story is a little different, having never really thought about the performing arts until she moved to Queenstown. She got involved with a play on a social level, which she describes as like falling down the rabbit hole. She got to explore a whole new world of acting and music, which she never knew before.

Belmont adds: "The event is going to be pretty amazing. I’m personally really excited for the entertainment and the margaritas from Taco Medic, who have donated a lot of drinks for the night. It’s not just an event for the parents – it’s for folks who are interested in learning more about the academy, if they’ve heard little rumblings and want to learn more about it. Or, if somebody just wants to have a good night on a Thursday.”

Tiny Room Concerts & Margaritas will be held at Waikākā Church, 1 Coronet Peak Station Road, on Thursday 2 November. Tickets include margaritas and canapes, with all proceeds going to support Liger students participation in tech competitions and experiences. More information and tickets can be found at


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