2023 Auckland Music Festival
8th Music Competition
4th to 6th October 2023
Venue: Mount Albert Methodist Church
Address: 831 New North Road, Mount Albert, Auckland
Please download the program
Dr SARAH WATKINS | PIANIST
Sarah’s lifelong love for accompanying and chamber music has led to an impressive career as a performer and recording artist. She is perhaps best known to New Zealand audiences as a founding member of NZTrio; after 16 years in that role, Sarah left the group in June 2018 to actively pursue other musical passions.
In addition to NZTrio, Sarah has been an official pianist for the Michael Hill International Violin Competition since its inception in 2001 and the Gisborne International Music Competition since 2008. She regularly appears as a freelance player in the APO, and has also performed as concerto soloist with the APO, ACO and St. Matthew’s Chamber Orchestra.
In 2014 Sarah recorded Chris Watson’s “sing songs self” for solo piano and orchestra with the NZSO, a composition which was awarded the prestigious 2015 SOUNZ Contemporary Award.
Her numerous CD recordings with NZTrio and other artists have been widely praised by audiences and critics alike; ‘Sway’ (NZTrio, 2017) and ‘Gung-ho’ (2009, with NZSO principal trombonist David Bremner) were both winners of the Vodafone NZ Music Award for best Classical album.
Sarah is a graduate of the University of Canterbury (NZ) and the Juilliard School (NY), where she earned both MM and DMA degrees in collaborative piano. She was recently appointed as an artist teacher and chamber music coach at the University of Auckland, and she enjoys a wide variety of collaborations with musicians all over New Zealand.
JAMES TENNANT | CELLIST
has enjoyed an esteemed and lively career as a concert cellist, chamber musician, teacher and arts instigator throughout many continents of the world, nevertheless, he calls New Zealand home.
James’ main artistic inspirations through the years have been William Pleeth, Arthur Rubinstein, Gidon Kremer, Natalia Makarova and Bruce Lee, all who have played an important role in developing his artistic vision. As a cellist, James has studied with William Pleeth and Jerome Jelinek while enjoying master classes with Janos Starker, Gregor Piatigorsky and Leonard Rose. He graduated with Distinction from the Interlochen Arts Academy and the University of Michigan, and during these years performed with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra under such inspirational conductors as Klaus Tennstedt, Fruhbeck de Burgos and Leonard Bernstein, and for pocket money he recorded with all the Motown greats of the 70’s.
James has performed numerous concertos with the Auckland Philharmonia, the Christchurch Symphony Orchestra, Orquesta Sinfonica Nacional de Colombia, Orquesta de Cali and the Dunedin Sinfonia among others. And he has shared the concert stage performing chamber music with leading musicians Piers Lane, Karin Adam, Dene Olding, Patricia Wright, Alexa Still, Michael Houstoun and the New Zealand String Quartet.
As a chamber musician, James was a founding member of the Trio Mozart, Vivo String Quartet, Ogen Trio and the New Zealand Chamber Soloists and has performed regularly with pianist Katherine Austin as the Tennant-Austin Duo.
James has conducted orchestras in the USA, Colombia and New Zealand including the St. Matthews Chamber Orchestra, Orquesta de Camera de Bogota, Ensemble Musical de Popayan and the University of Waikato Chamber Orchestra, with whom he was the Music Director of five world premieres of operas by David Griffiths.
James has taught at the Universidad del Cauca and Conservatorio Nacional de Colombia (Colombia), Auckland and Canterbury Universities (NZ). His students have achieved numerous successes in national and international competitions. Past students include Santiago Canon Valencia (most recently, Silver medal winner of the Tchaikovsky International Cello Competition 2019), Edward King, Matthias Balzat and Sai Sai Ding. He has initiated such musical ventures as the 2016 Waikato International Cello Fest, Nelson International Chamber Music Festival and Summer School, CadeNZa, the Belli Celli and the Rotorua International Chamber Music Festival.
At present James is currently Head of Cello Studies, Chamber Music and Orchestral Studies at the Conservatorium of Music of the University of Waikato. He has created a unique Soloist Specialisation course and along with other performance staff, offers over 70 concerts a year for the students to develop their expressive personalities through regular performance opportunities. With his Conservatorium of Music students, he has created the ensemble Cellophonics - New Zealand’s highly regarded cello ensemble - and for the past 14 years been its Musical Director.
James plays an 1898 Ernesto Degani.