I am grateful to have received a scholarship in the past from the Anne Reid Memorial Trust that has greatly assisted me in my studies as an orchestral conductor in the United Kingdom. I am writing a summary of my experiences over the past year and to express my gratitude for the assistance of the scholarship.
It has been a very exciting year for me. I am currently in my second year studying Orchestral Conducting at the Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama (RWCMD). Last year at the RWCMD I have been a member of REPCo (Repertory by Entrepreneurial Performers Company), a student-led company that involved me curating, managing and conducting various projects. My most recent project was a World War One commemoration concert titled Loss and Hope that included orchestral works, poetry readings and the premiere of a new work that I commissioned. The concert garnered much positive audience feedback.
I am currently working on a Piano Concerti concert as part of the successful Profile Piano series at the RWMCD. These projects have allowed me to develop both musical and entrepreneurial skills that are essential to a modern conducting career.
I have been engaged professionally by various orchestras around Wales such as the Cardiff Philharmonic Orchestra, the Abergavenny Symphony Orchestra and the St. Woolos Players in Newport, and have performed in the main concert hall in Wales, the St. David’s Hall. These opportunities have flowed from one another, and each orchestra I have worked with have invited me back to conduct further concerts in 2015, as well as recommending me to other orchestras in the United Kingdom.
I was appointed the Music Director of the Cardiff University Operatic Society last year and I am working towards a fully-staged production of Purcell’s The Fairy Queen in March. Late last year, I was the Music Director of Blood on the Snow, a sold-out theatrical realization of Benjamin Britten’s Ceremony of Carols.
In addition to conducting my own concerts, I have also worked as an assistant for the David Jones, the Conductor in Residence at the RWCMD on orchestral and operatic productions, and recently assisted visiting conductor Carlo Rizzi on Britten’s War Requiem.
I have also been attending conducting classes at the Royal Academy of Music in London given by the British female conductor Sian Edwards, and have kept in touch with London-based Alice Farnham who has conducted at the Mariinsky in Russia. It was also wonderful to have met observed rehearsals taken by a personal role model, Xian Zhang at the Welsh National Opera. I am grateful to have had such wonderful female role models and mentors in a profession where the gender imbalance is still very much present.
I have also made contact with a few fellow New Zealand conductors working in Europe, including Tecwyn Evans working with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales and the London-based conductor Holly Mathieson, both of whom have become mentors and good friends.
Last year, I travelled to Berlin to attend Interaktion – Dirigenten-Werkstatt des Kritischen Orchesters, a conducting workshop that involved players of the Berlin Philharmonic and professional musicians from all over Germany. I was voted as one of the top three finalists, which allowed me to have maximum time with the players.
A highlight was the opportunity to conduct the first two movements of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony with players who have played under conductors such as Karajan and Sir Simon Rattle.
I was also fortunate to attend the 2014 Järvi Summer Academy and study with Neemi Järvi and Paavo Järvi, the latter being one of my role models in conducting technique.
This summer I have been offered a place with a bursary on the Advanced Conducting Course at the Dartington International Summer School, led by Sian Edwards. I am sure this would be a very enriching experience and would give me the opportunity to meet, learn from and connect with many musicians from within the United Kingdom and overseas.
Most recently I made it through to the final round of the highly coveted Assistant Conductor post at the Hallé Orchestra in Manchester. At this point I have been one of two finalists offered to return for projects at the Hallé, although they have yet to reach a final decision. Whatever the outcome, it was incredible to work with Sir Mark Elder and conduct one of the longest established and well-known professional orchestras in the United Kingdom for half an hour! I have also been offered an audition for the prestigious Leverhulme Conducting Fellowship at the Conservatoire of Scotland to happen in March.
I will be returning to Australia and New Zealand in May and June this year to conduct a programme with the Hopkins Sinfonia in Melbourne, a youth orchestra I set up during my studies there, the Manukau Symphony Orchestra in Auckland and a production of the Magic Flute with Opera Otago. I have also been offered to conduct the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra in an APO Connecting event in October. It brings me great joy that I am able to return to New Zealand and work with such wonderful Kiwi musicians.
The generosity of awards like yours has allowed me to explore various opportunities that have greatly contributed to my development as an emerging conductor. I am very grateful for the assistance it has given me, without which none of the wonderful experiences would have been possible, experiences that will undoubtedly feed into my future work both within New Zealand and abroad.
Monday 19th January, 2015