Ray & Maxine Nelson, together with their three children, Brianna, Joshua and Jacob, left Kansas City, USA in 2011 to begin their new chapter in Cambridge, New Zealand.

Ray successfully managed his own studio in Kansas City for 13 years working with several Performing Arts Centers in Kansas. Maxine, his wife and native Cambridgite, is an accomplished musician and vocalist. She is also co-director of the popular Holiday Workshops and works alongside her husband at Ignite.

Our vision for Ignite is to...

  • positively impact our community through the vehicle of the arts one person, one family at a time.
  • give students of all ages the opportunity to develop their artistic and creative abilities through the creative arts.
  • give teachers the opportunity and place to develop their skill and passion in the arts.

Our Ignite Team


ray & maxine nelson


TEACHING: Keyboard

Ray is a passionate entrepreneur with 27 years in music education.  An accomplished musician himself, he has owned and operated several successful music studios over the years in large performing arts academies overseas, and brings with him a desire to see an arts hub model established locally that can also be used to expand out to other parts of NZ and beyond.  Ray also teaches keyboard classes using the very successful "Simply Music" method which is the largest playing based method in the world.

has been married to Ray for 29 years and they've worked on and in many ventures together as a team most of those years.  She considers raising three outstanding young people, Brianna, Joshua and Jacob a huge accomplishment.  She is responsible for recruiting the Ignite instructors and co-directs Ignite Arts Academy with her husband, spearheads and develops the concepts behind the Ignite programs and the very popular performing arts school holiday workshops.  She is passionate about excellence in the arts and is an accomplished musician and vocalist.

ann speed

TEACHING:  Violin, Viola

Ann and her husband and daughter have recently moved from Northern Ireland to live in New Zealand.  For the past 27 years she has been employed as an Upper Strings Tutor by the Music Service of the Southern Education and Library Board in Northern Ireland.  This role also incluilded musical directorship of the South Ulster Youth Orchestra, and the South Ulster String Orchestra.

Alongside her teaching career she remains an active participant in semiprofessional orchestras and ensembles, both playing violin and making a contribution to directing.  She also has experience as a freelance musician performing all over Ireland.

We welcome Ann to our teaching staff here at Ignite.

anita roberts

TEACHER:  Piano, Keyboard

Anita is a passionate pianist and educator, Anita has both a Diploma of Performance Music from Vision College and a Bachelor of Communication from Waikato University. She enjoys the challenge of meeting students where they are at and helping them thrive and love the music they create. With over 7 years of teaching experience, Anita has taught privately, through local Community Centres and at Ignite Arts Academy.

 Anita is a trained classical pianist who has toured with the Vision College Graduate band. On the side, she also spends her time live sound engineering and playing the harp.

lance uerata

TEACHING:  Hip Hop/Krump/Creative Body Movement

Lance is an experienced Krump and Hip Hop dancer of 8 years, Leader of the Waikato Krump Movement, and a member of NEXUS DC a Waikato all style dance crew.

He has studied Team Leadership in Business management, and has completed multiple dance workshops and tutorials This has given him the knowledge and tools to successfully coach Hip Hop and Krump classes to all ages.
Over the last two years Lance and fellow dancers have held open style dance jams in Hamilton to build awareness of what dance has to offer for the people in the Waikato community. He also competes in numerous all-style and krump events nationwide. 
Won the : Mos Street Champion 2018,
Creative Waikato sponsorship for All Style Championships 2019, Founder of Buck By Nature Krump Event 2019 and Battle co ordinator for Battlegrounds 2019. Performed at the Hamilton Arts festival, Hamilton Culture festival, Sevens Rugby launch party and many charity events in the Waikato area.

He has four children and a loving partner of 15 years. This is one of the reasons he is very passionate about providing mature, and youth ages, in our communities, the tools to freely express their emotions and creativity through dance in a safe and supportive environment.

courtney richmond

TEACHING:  Contemporary

Courtney has been dancing since the time she could walk. Throughout her school years she trained in Ballet, Jazz, Hip Hop, Tap, and Contemporary dance, completing examinations to high results in both the NZAMD and RAD syllabus. During this time she competed in contemporary and jazz competitions through the lower north island. Courtney started teaching at her local dance studio as a teenager, as well as taking leadership roles in choreography and organising of arts events at her high school. She  moved to Hamilton in 2016 to study English, theatre, and dance at the University of Waikato on a Sir Edmund Hillary Scholarship. During this time she has attended and performed at the 2016 Tertiary Dance festival, performed for the Waikato Contemporary Dance Projects Trust  2016 - 2019, and was President of Unity Dance Club 2017 and 2018. While studying in 2017 she developed a passion for Community Dance practices and integrated communities which lead her to volunteering as a dance facilitator for Life Unlimited and pursuing further study in this area. Courtney is now back at the university, after taking a year break to travel, and is studying towards her Master's Degree looking at Community and Integrated Dance practices. 

mckenzie northcott

TEACHING:  Jazz Ballet, Musical Theatre, Mini Movers

Mckenzie has joined the Ignite Arts Academy from 8Count Dance Studio in Pukekohe where she has danced for 14 years and has taught for the previous four years. She has sat and achieved high marks in all of her NZAMD exams right from Rosette One to Intermediate Jazz. She is starting her third year at Waikato University, studying a Management degree majoring in Accounting and Sport coaching and development. McKenzie is a highly motivated young leader with already a long list of accomplishments to her name in education, volunteer service to her community and school, leadership, sporting (netball) and more.  

With her move to Hamilton, she has the desire to continue teaching and we welcome her into the Jazz Ballet program within our dance academy.  She encourages students to express how they feel through their movement and performance, to gain confidence in an fun and welcoming environment.

anna mortlock

TEACHING:  Tap. Musical Theatre Dance, Adult Dance

Anna has trained and completed examinations in various dance styles including; Tap, Jazz, Ballet, Contemporary as well as Musical Theatre. She holds a Diploma in Tap Teaching and a Bachelor of Dance.

Most recently she has been running a dance Studio in Auckland (for 13 years), as well as freelance teaching and Choreographer/Director for other Studios, Schools and Theatres in and around the Auckland area.
Anna has enjoyed dancing in the competitive scene herself and has both competed at, and had students compete at, events overseas. 

Anna has made the move to Cambridge with her Partner Jono and little girl Amelia, and is looking forward to putting her tap shoes back on and joining the growing Ignite Arts family.

kim malone

TEACHING:  Dance Classes for the over 60's

Kim is passionate about teaching dance (Tap, Jazz and Musical Theatre) to others, having done so for more than 20 years. She also has a keen interest and talent in choreographing dance routines across all age groups.

She has an extensive background training in Tap dance, completing all exams with ‘distinction’, as well as a long history in competitive dance throughout New Zealand.

Kim has also been awarded a prestigious BBO Dance Scholarship.

She has travelled widely; singing and dancing in Cabaret shows and musicals, as well as teaching in Europe.  

Kim has recently moved to Cambridge, from Auckland, and is excited to not only be living here, but also to be able to work within the Ignite Cambridge community.

simon folkard

TEACHING:  Guitar, Drum, Band

Simon Folkard has been a gigging musician since the age of 14, usually fronting bands as lead vocalist and guitarist. He has toured extensively across NZ, playing alongside top NZ acts such as Dane Rumble, Midnite Youth, and Devilskin. Simon has enjoyed multiple television appearances and regular radio airplay with the musical projects he has been involved with over the years, and has recorded several albums in some of the best studios in NZ. Simon currently plays lead guitar in “The Jason McIver Collective”, after previously playing bass guitar in the band. He also plays in a covers duo, with regular gigs around the Waikato and surrounding areas.   

He is currently completing his Bachelor of Music in Performing Arts at Wintec. Simon is a passionate and approachable tutor, who enjoys teaching and helping students increase their skills and musical knowledge.

josh woest

TEACHING:  Keyboard, Guitar, Drums

Having spent two years studying Management at the University of Waikato, Josh left to pursue his passion for music he discovered during his time there. He graduated in 2020 with a Bachelor of Commercial Music in Production at Waikato Institute of Technology where he has gained an understanding of audio engineering, production, mixing and mastering, as well as broadening his knowledge of jazz harmony and guitar.

He currently plays in two cover bands and a duo, playing a variety of private and corporate gigs around the North Island.

While he is at heart a guitarist, he is also a proficient bassist and dabbles in piano and drums in the studio.

 Josh is keen to share what he knows and is passionate about encouraging musical learning.

andrew carter

TEACHING:  Guitar, Drums

Andrew is a multi-talented musician specialising in guitar and drums. He is the front man, vocalist and guitarist for a heavy metal band and has toured New Zealand, Australia and China performing his original songs. He is also an experienced music producer and has a vast musical knowledge in multiple genres - he's even composed a string quartet which was performed live at the Meteor Theatre at the end of 2018.

Andrew completed a Bachelor of Media Arts majoring in Commercial Music at Wintec and graduated in 2018 receiving a special award for Sound Production.

Aside from music Andrew served as a volunteer fireman for 6 years and received a medal in 2017 for good conduct and dedication to his community.

michelle pretorius


Michelle hails from South Africa and has been in the country less than a year but feels so blessed to have found a new home with her family in such a beautiful country like New Zealand.

She has been involved in the entertainment industry for more than 20 years. Over 12 years in professional television productions and before that she had a long career in both amateur and professional musical theatre. She is well known to South Africans as Wendy from Isidingo and Candy from Egoli both 2 long running television dramas.

She has a passion for passing down her knowledge to young (and older) budding actors and can’t wait to work with the talented and vibrant students at Ignite. She is also looking forward to helping Maxine and Ray grow the drama department.

jonathan hawthorn

TEACHING:  Keyboard, Vocals

Jonathan is currently a student at Wintec studying the new Bachelor of Music and Performance Arts (Theatre) degree. Alongside his numerous theatre credits on Hamilton stages, he has also played as a keyboardist in show bands, conducts a women's choir, and will be the musical director for Riverlea Theatre's production of Mamma Mia later in 2020. Jonathan has training in Piano and Vocals covering many different styles ranging from classical styles to rock 'n' roll and even barbershop singing. He also has relevant guitar experience. His passion, however, is musical theatre where he dedicates his spare time both on and off the stage. 

jessica ruck nu'u

TEACHING:  Vocals, Drama

Curly haired, enthusiastic and bubbly, Jessica has always been passionate about the arts. Jessica graduated from the Wintec School of Media Art in 2020 with a major in performance (voice) and is constantly involved in shows and events around the Waikato. Whether it’s a theatre show, musical or concert, Jessica loves to be involved in it all! 
As a professional gigging musician, Jessica can most commonly be found behind her guitar playing at a variety of both private and corporate gigs with her duo and cover band, The Meraki. She is primarily a vocalist, trained in contemporary singing but is also proficient with a guitar and keyboard.
Jessica enjoys that Ignite provides her with many opportunities to pass on her knowledge and love for music and theatre.

matthew mooney

TEACHING:  Drums, Keyboard, Guitar

emma thornton


Emma made the decision to leap into the world of Performing Arts after high school on a whim. Slowly she began to thrive in this environment, breaking out of her shell. Growing up an extremely shy person is always hard, especially when you have a passion for singing.  Nonetheless the arts impacted Emma’s life for the better, going from someone who wouldn’t dare to speak to becoming the lead in a musical theatre show, Hairspray, and participating in many more! Emma has recently completed her Bachelor in Commercial Music, majoring in musical performance and songwriting. Emma has had awesome experiences in the New Zealand music industry from solo and band live performances to recording backup vocals for NZ artists.
Emma has an emotional approach to teaching, especially with vocals and loves helping students thrive in the musical environment.


Junior Teacher lessons are now an integral part of our academy. We believe it is important to nurture outstanding talent, create more incredible teachers and offer our students options for different levels (and costs) of teaching. Our Junior Teachers are selected from our own top students and are enrolled in our Junior Teacher Apprentice Program, which trains and develops them into fantastic tutors.

Junior DANCE teachers work alongside our experienced dance teachers in the studio.

Our Junior MUSIC teachers teach independently, to younger musicians aged between 6 - 12 years old. 

joshua nelson


Joshua was born in Kansas City, USA, son of Ignite directors, Ray and Maxine.  
He has been learning and playing the drums since 2012, along with guitar and keyboard, all at Ignite. He is also regularly involved playing and performing with his own Ignite band ‘We Meet Every Friday’, school bands and church worship team. 

Other areas Josh is actively working and assisting in include Digital Media, Graphic design and Film.  He also loves to get out on his longboard and shooting baskets with his brother.

Josh started junior teaching for Ignite early in 2019. He is excited to share his talent with kids keen to learn.  


jessica judge


Jessica moved to Cambridge 10 years ago from Sydney, via Auckland (for a short stint). She studied, and has qualifications in Business Marketing, Graphic Design and Television production. She is also a self-taught photographer and works as a freelancer for the Resene Habitat magazine. Passionate about helping small businesses get ahead, Jessica’s work revolves around ensuring her clients have a marketing and design presence that guarantees they stand out from their competitors. Jessica’s clients range from Food Retail, Real Estate, Performing Arts to Health, Plumbers, Interior Design and Engineering firms. 

In her free time, she enjoys the summer months, out boating and waterskiing with family, and during winter, hunkering down with a great book in front of the fire.

For more info on Jessica, and how she could help with your business, email her on jessica@cojuconsulting.com  

ruth tweddle


Ruth's family immigrated from South Africa in 2016 to make New Zealand their home.  The journey has had its highs and lows but she's happy to say New Zealand has been very good to them and feel very fortunate and blessed to have the opportunity to make this their home.  She has a qualification in bookkeeping and twenty plus years experience in the accounting industry and hopes to add value to an already great team at Ignite.  Ruth loves the heartbeat of Ignite Arts Academy and loves seeing the broad range of ages and people getting in touch with their creativity.  She's recently started her own creative journey and it’s changing her life in a way she had not thought possible.  She looks forward to connecting with the Ignite Community and families.

gabrielle christophers


Gabrielle was one of the first students in the Mother-Daughter dance class. She loved it so much, she signed up for another term and added in the adults' dance class too.
Currently studying for a diploma in business, Gabrielle’s background has been working in head offices as a product merchandiser in the UK for a number of homeware retailers including Laura Ashley.
Returning to NZ to raise her family she trained in upholstery and ran a small service for a while.
Gabrielle is a very recent addition to the Ignite team and is very excited to be working on a number of projects with Maxine and Ray.


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