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 creative arts.
  • give teachers the opportunity and place to develop their skill and passion in the arts.



ray & maxine nelson


Ray is a passionate entrepreneur with 28 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. 

Maxine has been married to Ray for 30 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.

kartika sulistiowati


Kartika Sulistiowati is a musician and composer, originally from Indonesia, she has been playing violin since she was young and has been enjoying it since. Back home, she works as a session musician for different orchestras and bands, as well as taught for more than 5 years. She moved to Hamilton 4 years ago, and just recently finished her Bachelor of Media Arts in Commercial Music at Wintec. She has been in some orchestras all around Hamilton and musical productions namely Trust Waikato Symphony Orchestra, Hamilton City Pop Orchestra, Sweet Charity, Dogfight, Hood Street: The Musical, and recently Chicago. Through her Suzuki method training, she is inspired to teach violin on all age group and make music learning fun.

grace oberschneider

TEACHING:  Ballet, Contemporary
DANCE DIRECTOR:  Ignite Arts Academy

Grace Oberschneider (B.P.S.A) studied ballet and contemporary dance at Step Beyond Studios for 13 years. She went on to complete her Bachelor of Performing and Screen Arts with a major in Contemporary Dance at Unitec, Auckland, in 2012. 

Grace has produced a range of award winning choreographic works and danced professionally for national choreographers. Some of her projects include; co choreography and performance of 'The Juniper Passion Tour', Italy, the development of 'Orchids' and performance of 'Sister of the Black Crow' by renowned choreographer Sarah Foster-Sproull. Her work was presented at the Commonwealth Youth Dance Festival in Glasgow and she attended the Deltebre Dansa festival in Barcelona.
Grace has taught for a total of 9 years at Step Beyond Studios, the past two taking on the role as director. She has facilitated youth engagement workshops for The New Zealand Dance Company and Unitec. She settled in London in 2017, then onto Melbourne in 2019. Throughout this period, she produced a range of dance film works for Tempo Dance Festival. Grace taught dance, drama and performing arts in schools across London.
With a passion for positive teaching practice, Grace builds an environment aiding the personal growth of all students. Her broad spectrum of experience in diverse environments has provided her a valuable collection of dance teaching strategies.

zhadon cook

TEACHING:  Hip Hop/Krump/House/Locking/Popping/Afro/Salsa

Zhadon is an experienced dancer of many styles. He has been dancing for 11 years, 3 of them professionally. Hailing from Hamilton, he started dancing with NEXUS DC, a Waikato all style dance crew and quickly progressed to teaching others. Although Zhadon's first love is Hip Hop, he is very musically talented and can play a variety of instruments including drums, piano, guitar and violin.

Zhadon has competed in numerous dance competitions from Auckland to Wellington and internationally!  In 2019 he came 3rd equal in a dance battle in Lyon, France. He has competed and placed 2nd at the 2019 Te Puke Hip Hop battle as well as 2016 national Hip Hop battle Matariki Swag Fest.
Zhadon's passion is in teaching all ages and would one day love to open his own Hip Hop dance studio in the Waikato.

mckenzie northcott

TEACHING:  Jazz Ballet, 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.

sophie frame

TEACHING:  Ballet, Simply Music Keyboard

Sophie loves all things creative, having had a passion for both music and dance from a young age. She started learning the piano and flute at the age of 7, and continued taking lessons right through her school years. She can also sing and play guitar. Through being involved in bands, orchestra, chamber music, and as a solo artist, she has experience in a range of musical contexts.

Growing up, if Sophie wasn’t making music she was dancing. With a background in ballet, Sophie has done both RAD and BBO ballet examinations, achieving distinction for her Advanced One BBO ballet exam. Alongside ballet, she also has experience in contemporary.

In her spare time she enjoys writing and producing her own music. Sophie is excited to share her passion for music and dance with others and the Ignite community.

oscar crafts

TEACHING:  Contemporary, Jazz, Acro

Oscar started dancing at an early age in NZAMD Jazz, Hip Hop & Tap. By age 10 he was competing internationally with his highest achievement being Top 5 Dancer of the Year at Showcase Dance Championships on the Gold Coast.

Oscar has continued to develop his focus in the competition and pre-professional scene and moved to Auckland in 2020 to train with Tiptronic Choreography, Momentum Productions and Flow Academy Pro Team.

Oscar has since been signed to top NZ agency 3WJ+Boy directed by Kiri Whitford-Joynt and Kiel Tutin. He has recently moved back to Hamilton due to the Pandemic and continues to extensively train with his mentor Quinn Annemans across all genres.

Oscar prides himself in his acrobatic ability and versatility throughout genres of dance and is excited to work with the dancers at Ignite Arts Academy and pass down the knowledge he’s gained throughout his career so far.

carey gilliver

TEACHING:  Band, Guitar, Drums

Carey began his journey in music at about the age of six learning to play the piano, achieving Grade 7 (Royal Schools) and Grade 5 theory. He has year 1 and 2 University papers in musicianship (ear training) and Materials of Music (harmony and counterpoint).  

He began playing guitar seriously in his early teens and joined a classic rock and blues band called Magic Roundabout at age 21 on keyboards and guitar and later fronting and lead vocals. He has also played drums since age 13.

Carey has played in a number of different bands and shows touring all over NZ including rock band Boneyard on lead guitar, ‘The Chain’ Fleetwod Mac Experience (lead guitar and vocals), Creedence Clearwater Revived (lead vocals and lead guitar) and Kightshade (keyboards). He has also performed many gigs solo singing and playing guitar. Carey is currently a member of an excellent Pink Floyd theatre show called Floyd Live on guitar and lap steel.

Carey has also worked for about 20 years in the sound and lighting production industry with Scott Sound and Lighting and has a solid understanding of live sound mixing and stagecraft.

Having been raised with a family of teachers he is very friendly and approachable and takes an easy and non pressurizing approach with his students, maintaining a strong focus on them having fun with their music.

matthew mooney

TEACHING:  Drums, Keyboard, Guitar

Matthew lives and breathes music and loves sharing his knowledge and creativity with the next generation.  He describes his teaching style as practical and fun. 

Matt was brought up in and around musical theatre and believes music to be his main life purpose.  

In his spare time he is also a free lance sound and stage technician doing sound and lighting work for festivals, tours and events.

Fun Fact : Matthew is also the keyboardist to reggae band “The Generation” and drummer for death metal band “Gasp”

jonty climo

TEACHING:  Guitar, Drum, Ignite the Beatz, Vocals

Jonty is an enthusiastic and passionate musician with over 7 years of experience teaching (guitar, drums and voice) and 15 years of experience playing. As a music teacher Jonty has one vision: to help each student achieve their individual musical goals by coaching, training, instructing and encouraging them in a fun and exciting way. Each lesson is goal-oriented and fits his specific student's needs and ideas. Jonty graduated from Toi Ohomai Institute of Technology in 2018 with a diploma in Music Production and Performance - which has furthered his musical knowledge and skills. Jonty's music career to date is extensive, his highlights range from recording original music in his studio, paid gigs and performances, zoom and in-person lessons with his students and band directing shows in Tauranga. 
Outside of teaching, Jonty is fully immersed in the musical theatre scene, having musical directed the world wide premier of 'Blues Brothers', the musical. In Hamilton, Jonty has musical directed two junior shows for Hamilton Musical Theatre, 'Beauty and the Beast' and 'Frozen'. Jonty has also directed the musicals 'Cinderella' and 'Alice in Wonderland' for 16th Avenue Theatre in Tauranga. If Jonty isn't doing all that you can find him on stage performing instead. 

jonathan hawthorn

TEACHING:  Keyboard, Vocals, Drama, Musical Theatre

Jonathan recently graduated from Wintec with a 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. 

emilyrose smith

TEACHING:  Vocals, Guitar, Intro to Music

Emme first fell in love with music in her intermediate years. It all started with guitar then along came the lyrics. After leaving her hometown, Dunedin, she now resides in Hamilton where she has recently graduated from the Bachelor of Media Arts in Commercial Music at Wintec. She has taught vocal lessons and worked in Early Childhood Centres over the past year. 

Over time she has been involved in singing for the 'Sister Act' musical, choirs, composing music and is the lead singer and guitarist for the band 'Sun in her Eyes'. Emme is a fun and  friendly teacher who is passionate about sharing the love of music to anyone who is willing to learn.


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. 

jacob nelson

JUNIOR TEACHER:  Guitar (Acoustic and Electric)

Jacob is in his last year of high school at Cambridge High and the youngest child of Ray & Maxine Nelson.  From an early age Jacob has been applying himself to learning multiple instruments, beginning with keyboard, then adding drumming, guitar and vocals.  

At the age of 13 years he made his very first guitar under the guidance of a local Luthier, which is still his favourite to perform with.  Jacob loves to produce music in his spare time as well as play and coach basketball locally.  He is very comfortable performing in a variety of settings with his own band as well as busking locally in his hometown.

Jacob is a popular junior teacher at Ignite and loves to connect with and encourage up and coming musicians.


jessica judge


Jessica moved to Cambridge 10 years ago from Sydney, via Auckland (for a short stint). She studied, and has qualifications in 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  

mandy hale


Mandy emigrated to New Zealand from the UK in 2002 with her then very young family. Having spent her youth and early adult years acting on the stage and on the committees of various dramatic groups, her passion for the arts has never waned.

Mandy has many years experience working in office administration including working in the legal world, horticulture and for charitable trusts.  She is also a qualified Life Coach and believes in helping the young reach their full potential.

Working at Ignite Arts Academy allows Mandy the opportunity to continue her passion of working in the Arts, helping the young and being part of the thriving creative local Community.

kat fielding


Kathy and her husband, along with their three children, recently emigrated to Cambridge, at the start of 2021. Kathy has a creative background in performing arts and Marketing. She is passionate about working within the community and supporting the creative arts.

grace oberschneider


Grace Oberschneider (B.P.S.A) has recently moved, with her husband and baby son, from Auckland, to Cambridge to step into the Dance Director role at Ignite Arts Academy.  She brings a wealth of experience both as a teacher and director to Ignite.

(full bio above)

brenda bell


Brenda moved to Cambridge seven years ago from Wellington with her husband and son.  She has a background in education having taught ESOL in NZ, Japan and the UK. More recently she has worked with NZ school leaders and students, coordinating events to expand and enhance parts of their curriculum knowledge.  Brenda has a background in music having studied classical piano from an early age, and is passionate about people of all ages having the opportunity to learn and enjoy music.


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