NZSO/TODD Young Composers Awards

This is an article I wrote for KBB’s Random Notes, a free quarterly newsletter for school music teachers around New Zealand.

Diary from the Todd/NZSO Young Composer Awards

The Todd/NZSO Young Composer Awards should be on the calendar for any composer under 25 years old. It’s a fantastic opportunity to have an orchestral composition recorded by the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra. It’s also a chance to receive guidance from a high profile New Zealand composer, attend workshops by NZSO players, meet important people in the music industry and come together with other young composers from all over New Zealand.

In May a completed application form and full score with a maximum duration of 5 minutes were due. Finalists were selected and then asked to send parts by July 1st. The 2008 Awards were recorded on the 8 & 9 September in the Michael Fowler Centre, Wellington. Hamish McKeich conducted the NZSO and the composer mentor was Ross Harris.

Sunday 7th September

I flew from Auckland to Wellington, dropped my bags off at the Bay Plaza Hotel (where all out of town composers stayed) and braved the cold to attend a welcome dinner at Nicolini’s Bistro on Courtney Place. The dinner was a friendly and informal way to meet the other finalists, Ross Harris, Hamish McKeich and various representatives from the NZSO, Radio New Zealand, SOUNZ and the Todd Corporation.

Monday 8th September

This year there were 11 finalists with ages ranging from 15 to 25 years from Auckland, Hamiltion, Wellington and Christchurch. Each composition was allotted 45 minutes to rehearse and record. We sat with Ross Harris on the stage and he helped us to communicate with the conductor and gave us valuable feedback. It was wonderful to hear the NZSO perform our compositions live as any issues with orchestration, performability and structure were suddenly so obvious! After each of our works were recorded we were whisked away to record an interview with Rebecca Blundell from Radio New Zealand Concert. She was making a radio programme about the NZSO/Todd Awards that will be aired at a later date. We had a workshop with NZSO percussionists Laurence Reese and Leonard Sakofsky and were able to ask them specific questions and talk about a fundamental topic for aspiring composers – what is and isn’t possible. To finish the day Tabea Squire gave a presentation about her experience as the 2008 NZSO/NYO Composer-in-Residence.

Tuesday 9th September

The recordings continued and we heard the remaining five compositions and like yesterday we studied the scores while we listened. We were also treated to a bassoon workshop by NZSO bassoonist Robert Weeks who gave us insider’s knowledge on bassoon orchestration. The Awards were concluded with a presentation of the 2008 ‘Todd Award for Composition’ which went to Wellington based composer Alexandra Hay. I flew back to Auckland later that evening with a head brimming full of new ideas. I can’t wait to receive the CD!