The numerous performance restrictions imposed by Covid-19 have not appeased the zeal of the seven young recipients of this year’s Kiwi music scholarship.
Western Bay of Plenty soprano Felicity Tomkins along with pianists Modi Deng and Grace Francis, tenor Harry Grigg, violinists April Ju and Claudia Tarrant-Matthews and soprano Sophie Sparrow each received a scholarship of between $ 8,000 and $ 15. $ 000.
The scholarship was created in 2009 by Sven StenbÃ¤ck in memory of his wife, Maida StenbÃ¤ck nÃ©e Saunders, a New Zealander who loved classical music.
This is to help continue the musical education of citizens of Aotearoa New Zealand who have demonstrated achievement in musical performance (including vocal performance) or conducting.
The selection committee was delighted to have such an exceptional pool of applicants, said its chairman, Professor Emeritus Peter Walls.
“It is impressive to see these young people succeed in persevering with excellent study plans despite the uncertainties and constraints of the pandemic.”
Felicity Tomkins, 25, from Te Puke in the Bay of Plenty, is studying for an Artist Diploma at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music in the United States.
She previously obtained Masters of Music and Bachelor of Music with Distinction and Bachelor of Science at Te Whare WÄnanga o Waikato – University of Waikato.
After a solid musical education in New Zealand, notably as a studio artist of the Dame Malvina Major Foundation with NZO and in four of the NZO summer schools, Felicity is delighted to take her first steps abroad. She has been described as a voice to watch on the national stage.
Modi Deng, 24, from Dunedin, is described as “exceptionally gifted” by Professor Joanna MacGregor, Head of Piano at the Royal Academy of Music in London.
Modi is studying for an advanced degree at the Royal Academy, having obtained a professional degree there. She previously obtained a Masters of Music with Distinction, a Bachelor of Music with Distinction and a BA in English at Waipapa Taumata Rau, University of Auckland.
Despite Covid-19, Modi traveled to London to start her professional degree in September 2020 and has now returned after a break in New Zealand so she can practice more freely.
Next year, Modi will make his Wigmore Hall debut in London, with the Nash Ensemble. As part of her advanced degree, she will present a research-based music recital on a postcolonial theme. Earlier this year, she led a multimedia project that combined Ravel’s Mirrors with the art, contemporary dance and animation of Colin McCahon.
She is also a poet, with verses in two Auckland University Press anthologies published this year.
Modi is a former winner of the New Zealand National Concerto Competition and a finalist for the Wallace National Piano Competition and the National Young Performer Awards.
Grace Francis, 30, from Cambridge to Waikato, is one of the most sought-after collaborative pianists at The Juilliard School in New York City, a significant achievement in a competitive pool of top pianists.
Her talents have also been recognized outside of school by such figures as soprano RenÃ©e Fleming and the conductors of the Metropolitan Opera and the San Francisco Opera.
Grace is at Juilliard as a Fulbright Fellow in New Zealand and has just completed a Masters of Music there, having obtained a Bachelor of Music with Honors from the University of Auckland.
Her Kiwi Music Fellowship helped her continue her studies in New York City by undertaking a doctorate in musical arts specializing in collaborative piano for singers.
âBefore I started at Juilliard, I already had a long-term goal of becoming a university professor for collaborative piano in New Zealand,â explains Grace.
âNew Zealand is full of young pianists who are enthusiastic about working together and earning my PhD at Julliard will allow me to help help them grow in the future. “
Harry Grigg, 25, from Cheviot in Canterbury, received a Kiwi Music Fellowship last year and received a second to continue his studies for a Master of Performance at the Royal College of Music in London.
Harry graduated from the University of Auckland with a Bachelor of Music Honors, after studying at Te Whare WÄnanga o OtÄgo – University of Otago. He has performed extensively in New Zealand and Australia in concerts and with the New Zealand Opera (NZO).
Much of Harry’s time at Royal College has been dominated by Covid-19, he says, with online classes, only a small number of in-person coaching sessions, and competitions, auditions and assessments postponed.
Despite this, he says, âI continued to develop my languages, I sing better than ever and my technique continues to improve. And there’s still plenty to come, including inter-college competitions and opera stages to work on. I can’t wait to be back on stage to collaborate with my peers.
April Ju, 24, from Christchurch, is halfway through her MA at the Royal Academy of Music but is currently in New Zealand, where she is stranded due to Covid-19 and awaiting her visa. be treated so that she can return to London.
While in New Zealand, April competed in the final of the National Concerto Competition, winning third place. In London, the chances of performing were disrupted, but she says nonetheless that the opportunities and experiences she had “really improved my musical learning”.
One of the most cherished experiences in April was the loan of a 19th century Enrico Ceruti violin from the Royal Academy Museum.
âThe instrument has this incredibly sonorous tone, while also having a smooth, mellow upper register, and has helped me build a wider palette of colors, textures and dynamics,â she says.
April holds a Bachelor of Music with Honors from the University of Auckland, has been an Occasional Violinist with the NZSO since 2019 and the Christchurch Symphony Orchestra since 2014, and has served as Principal Violin of the National Youth Orchestra of NZSO in 2019.
Next year, she will be a young artist at the Wakatipu Music Festival in Queenstown.
Sophie Sparrow, 28, from WhangÄrei, received a Kiwi Music Scholarship in 2019 and last year and received a third to complete her advanced degree in the Royal Academy Opera program at the Royal Academy of Music, which operates as a small opera company within the Academy.
Described as an emerging artist of rare distinction, Sophie says her time on the program has given her “incredible opportunities to work with fantastic musicians, directors and management.”
Her performances include Tytania (A Midsummer Night’s Dream), Belinda (Dido and Aeneas), Despina (CosÃ¬ fan tutte) and Nella (Gianni Schicchi).
She has also been part of WhÄnau London Voices: Voices of Aotearoa, Far From Home, for which UK-based New Zealand opera singers have gathered at the Royal Albert Hall.
Sophie previously obtained an MA in Performance from the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London and a Bachelor of Music with Distinction and a Bachelor of Commerce in Accounting from the University of Otago.
She was a winner of the Dame Malvina Major Foundation Wellington Aria competition in 2019 and a finalist of Lexus Song Quest in 2016.
This year, she was a finalist in the annual Royal Overseas League and Overseas Music Competition (which won the Tait Memorial Trust Award) and a semi-finalist in the Kathleen Ferrier Award.
Claudia Tarrant-Matthews, 23, from Wellington, received a Kiwi Music Fellowship last year and received a second as she ramps up her mostly online studies impacted by Covid for a Master of Arts in the Royal Academy of Music with a professional degree he specializes in violin and piano recital.
The recitals are often in partnership with Kiwi Music scholarship recipient Modi Deng, with whom she formed The Awa Duo last year. This collaboration has upcoming performances at Southwark Cathedral and in the Royal Academy Concert Series.
âCreativity and collaboration are essential parts of building a professional performance career and, with the help of the Kiwi Music Scholarship, a professional degree at the Royal Academy will help me enrich and develop these skills. Â», Says Claudia.
While at the Royal Academy, Claudia held senior positions for many internal projects, such as the Academy’s Elite Soloists Orchestra and Symphony Orchestra.
She is another former principal violinist of the NZSO National Youth Orchestra and currently performs regularly with the London Philharmonic Orchestra (LPO), including their tours in Turkey and Germany earlier this year.
In July, she was concertmaster of the LPO concert âDebut Soundsâ at the Royal Festival Hall, in collaboration with the Foyle Future Firsts program for which she is currently a violinist.
A talented pianist and violinist, Claudia graduated with a Bachelor of Music from Te Herenga Waka – Victoria University of Wellington’s New Zealand School of Music – Te KÅkÄ«.