Soloists & Conductors

Conductors and Soloists for our 2017 Concert Series

Michael Joel – Conductor and Musical Director of SMCO

New Zealand-born conductor, Michael Joel studied at Otago University where he completed an Honours degree in conducting. After graduating he studied with conductors Heinz Wallberg, Miguel Harth-Bedoya, Jac van Steen, and at the Dartington International Summer School.

Equally at home in the orchestral, choral and operatic repertoire, Michael has conducted extensively throughout New Zealand and, since relocating to London in early 2014, at The Royal Opera House, assisting Alexander Joel, Dan Ettinger, Placido Domingo, Oleg Caetani and Marc Minkowski.

He has conducted many of the established orchestras and companies in New Zealand – Christchurch Symphony Orchestra, the Southern Sinfonia, St Matthew’s Chamber Orchestra, Opera Otago, the City of Dunedin Choir, NZSO National Youth Orchestra and, prior to relocating to London, principals and members of the NZSO and NZ String Quartet in a critically acclaimed performance of Mahler’s 4th Symphony.

Michael was Music and Development Officer, Chorus Master and Assistant Conductor at Canterbury Opera. During his tenure he conducted Lakmé , Rusalka, Comte Ory, La traviata and the world premiere of Jonathan Besser’s “work in progress”, commissioned by Canterbury Opera. In August 2006 he conducted a highly successful production of Die Fledermaus for Opera Hawke’s Bay.

Michael is currently Music Director of St Matthews Chamber Orchestra and has recently freelanced with the music staff at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden as duty conductor on productions of Carmen, Tosca, La Bohème and La Traviata. He also assisted with the music preparation and children’s chorus for Carmen and La Bohème.

Michael is also an accomplished violist and teacher, working in London.

Vincent Hardaker – Conductor

Vincent Hardaker is one of New Zealand’s most promising up-and-coming conductors and is currently the assistant conductor of Orchestra Wellington and part of the Symphony Services International Core Conductors Programme.

In recent years he has been been the NZSO Conducting Fellow, through which he has been assistant to Jose Luis Gomez for the NZSO National Youth Orchestra, and has worked with Vasily Petrenko, Pietari Inkinen, Simone Young and Simon Trpceski. Other significant events include masterclasses with the Tasmanian, Adelaide, West Australian and New Zealand Symphony Orchestras with conductors Johannes Fritzsch, Macelo Lehninger, James Judd, Marko Letonja and Nicholas Carter. He has also been the assistant conductor for Opus Orchestra in 2014, and has had previous concerts with the Wellington Chamber Orchestra and Kapiti Concert Orchestra.

At the end of 2014 Vincent graduated from the New Zealand School of Music with a Bachelor of Music (Hons) in conducting under Kenneth Young. Alongside his conducting activities, Vincent still regularly plays viola in Orchestra Wellington.

Simone Roggen – Violin

Simone has traveled around the world as a Soloist, Concertmaster, as Primaria of the award-winning Faust Quartett, and is regularly performing in diverse ensembles like Camerata Bern, Gstaad Festival Orchestra, Geneva Camerata and Lucerne Festival Strings.

Growing up in New Zealand with a Swiss father and South African mother, then moving to Europe in 2004 has given Simone quite a multicultural background.

”I live to make music. It is the most direct way to touch the heart of humanity”

Timothy Carpenter – Conductor

Timothy holds a Bachelor of Music majoring in Performance Cello from the University of Waikato, a Licentiate of the Royal Schools of Music in Cello with Distinction, an Honours degree majoring in performance organ and conducting from the University of Auckland and has just completed his Masters in conducting at the University of Auckland under the supervision of Prof Uwe Grodd, Dr Karen Grylls and Dr Gregory Camp.

He has been a member of the New Zealand National Youth Orchestra, the New Zealand Youth Choir, Voices New Zealand, Auckland Chamber Choir and Voices of Age of Discovery. Timothy is emerging as one of New Zealand’s most active and promising young conductors, having worked with several amateur and professional ensembles in New Zealand and overseas. He has participated in conducting master classes in the United States, Europe, the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand, conducting orchestras including the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, Western Australia Symphony, Tasmanian Symphony, Auckland Philharmonic, and the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra.

Currently, Timothy is Director of Choral Music at St Paul’s Collegiate Hamilton, Sub-Organist at Hamilton Cathedral of St Peter, Musical Director of Hamilton Civic Choir, Associate Conductor of OPUS Chamber Orchestra, and is a guest conductor with St Matthews Chamber Orchestra, the Devonport Chamber Orchestra and Bach Musica NZ.

Ben Hoadley – Bassoonist

Ben Hoadley enjoys a dynamic career as a performer, teacher and composer on both sides of the Tasman. He is a member the Sydney Omega Ensemble (ensemble in residence at City Recital Hall, Sydney) and has been a regular guest principal bassoonist with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra and the Australian Opera and Ballet Orchestra. He has worked further afield as guest principal with the Hallé, the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra, the Trondheim Symphony Orchestra (Norway) and the Boston Pops Orchestra and has also performed with the Boston Symphony Orchestra and the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra.

Recent highlights for Ben include performing and recording a new bassoon concerto by Alex Taylor with the NZSO (which he premiered with the Auckland Chamber Orchestra in 2014), performances of the Mozart Bassoon Concerto at City Recital Hall in Sydney, a masterclass/recital tour of several universities in the USA and a tour presented by Chamber Music NZ with the Donizetti Trio. Ben serves as tutor at the Australian Youth Orchestra “Young Symphonists” programme, the Cairns Winter Music School and as bassoonist-in-residence at the International Oboe Summer School in addition to his on-going work as a mentor-in-schools for the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra’s education programme. Ben has taught at the University of Auckland School of Music since 2007.

Ben has recorded recital programmes for Radio New Zealand Concert FM, the Australian Broadcasting Commission and WGBH Classic ‘FM (Boston). His most recent CD “Southern Invention” was listed by William Dart in the NZ Herald as one of the top 10 classical releases for 2015. His previous CD of bassoon music by Gillian Whitehead, also on the Atoll label, was a finalist in the 2013 New Zealand Music Awards. Ben has performed recitals of contemporary bassoon music at the International Double Reed Society Conventions in 2004 (Melbourne) and 2013 (Redlands, California).

Ben holds degrees in bassoon performance from the Sydney Conservatorium of Music and the New England Conservatory in Boston, and a Master of Music in composition with honours from the University of Waikato.

James Tennant – Conductor

American-born cellist James Tennant is a concert soloist, chamber musician, teacher and one of New Zealand’s leading arts innovators. He is the founder of the country’s premier chamber music festival, the Adam Festival of Chamber Music, and this year the Waikato International Cello Fest 2016.

The cellist/conductor James Tennant continues his long standing relationship with the SMCO with his appearance for our June concert. As a cellist, he still travels internationally to perform concerts with the New Zealand Chamber Soloists and the Tennant-Austin Duo, and has released 4 CD’s over the past 3 years with the NZCS, to great local and international critical acclaim. In January 2015 the group performed in Italy, England, Scotland and the USA, while in May toured New Zealand for Chamber Music New Zealand visiting the major centers. Tennant is now recognized as a leading cello educator, attracting international students to the University of Waikato cello performance programme where he is head of solo cello, chamber music and orchestral studies. Tennant was the Festival Director and founder of the highly successful Waitako International Cello Fest held in August this year.   Matthias Balzat, a third year student under Tennant at the University of Waikato was the winner of the inaugural Wallace International Cello Competition after beating off a strong pool of international candidates from England, Switzerland, Singapore, and Australia. Balzat is the soloist for the SMCO’s June concert conducted by Tennant.

As a conductor, he continues as the Musical Director of the University of Waikato Conservatorium Orchestra, Cellophonics, the Blue Lake Summer Festival Orchestra, while conducting all the opera productions at the University of Waikato including the Magic Flute, Carman and five Opera’s by the New Zealand composer David Griffiths. In New Zealand he has lead the Nelson Symphony, Opus Chamber, Bay of Plenty and the SMCO among others, and continues to conduct purely for the enjoyment and pleasure of making passionate music together with his orchestral colleagues. Since arriving in NZ in 1982, James has been either a conductor or soloist with SMCO eleven times.

Matthias Balzat – Cellist

Matthias started learning the cello at the age of 3 and is the youngest of 7 children. Being surrounded by musical siblings, he has had a variety of performance experiences from a very young age, both as soloist and as part of the family ensemble. He has been part of several overseas tours with the family, including USA, Germany, Austria, Australia and Fiji. He began his lessons with Sally-Anne Brown who taught him for 9 years and at the age of 11 he began his studies with James Tennant. At the age of 9 he was selected to play at the Gala Concert for the International Suzuki Convention held in Melbourne and there did his first performance as soloist with an orchestra.

In 2013 he entered the NZCT Chamber Music Contest with “Sollertinsky”, performing Shostakovich’s 2nd Piano Trio. His group were winners of the both the Auckland District as well as the overall National Prize. In 2014 was gained First Prize for the National Concerto Competition and was consequently accepted into the Music Performance Soloist Specialization Course at Waikato University at the age of 14. In 2015 he won First Prize at PACANZ Competition and was also guest soloist with the NZSSSO. He performed with the Turnovsky Ensemble in the same year and also with the CSO at the Summer Sparks Concert in the Park. He won the Chamber Music Competition at Waikato University and was also finalist in the ROSL Chamber Scholarship. He also gained 2nd Prize at the Gisborne International Competition 2015.

He was awarded a Sir Edmund Hillary Scholarship and a Blues Award in 2014 and 2015 and is currently in his 3rd year of studies under James Tennant. In his third year, 2016, he won the Inaugural Wallace International Cello Competition, held at the University of Waikato, and also participated in the Cello Fest that took place during the competition.

Eliah Sakakushev-von Bismarck – Cellist

Cellist Eliah Sakakushev enjoys a versatile career as chamber musician, soloist, orchestra lead cellist and teacher. His numerous concert appearances and tours have made him feel a world citizen, being often on the stage in Europe, Israel, Brazil, Argentina, the USA, Russia, Japan, New Zealand and Australia. Born in Bulgaria, Eliah was admitted to the Special School for Musicians in his hometown Plovdiv at the age of 7. Ten years later he moved on to study at the Vienna University of Music. It was in the German city of Mannheim, however, that he obtained his Orchestra Diploma and Concert Certificate (Konzertexamen) under the guidance of Prof. Michael Flaksman. Eliah also studied at the Menuhin Academy in Switzerland. An inspirational figure in his development as musician and cellist was the late Russian Cellist Victoria Yagling. Encounters and masterclasses with M. Rostropovich, Gary Hoffman, Arto Noras, Frans Helmerson, Siegfried Palm, Anner Bylsma and other leading cellists influenced Eliah’s playing. Honoured with various prizes, including the Grand Premio at the Chamber Music Competition in Varenna, Italy and a special prize at the Mendelssohn Competition in Berlin, Eliah was also recipient of the “Wilhelm-Müller-Stiftung”-Mannheim and the “Oscar & Vera-Ritter-Stiftung”-Hamburg grants.

Since 2003 Eliah has been the principal cellist of the Orquesta Filarmónica de Málaga (Spain), the São Paulo State Symphony Orchestra (Brazil), the Philharmonic Orchestra of Regensburg (Germany), as well as the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra (New Zealand). He has also collaborated with the Basque National Orchestra, (Spain) and the Philharmonic Orchestra of Minas Gerais (Brazil). With the Festival String Orchestra “I Palpiti” Eliah performed frequently in venues such as Disney Hall (Los Angeles) and Carnegie Hall (New York). An avowed chamber musician, Eliah has appeared in numerous formations at various festivals throughout the world, such as “Estate Musicale a Portogruaro”, “Ascoli Piceno Music Festival” (Italy), Kultursommer Rheinland-Pfalz, (Germany), “Yokosuka Bay” (Japan), “West-Siberia-East Music Festival” (Russia), Eilat Chamber Music Festival, Felicja Blumenthal (Israel), as well as at the Ravinia Festival in Chicago and Young Artists International in Los Angeles and others. He has shared stage with such musicians as violinists Dora Schwarzberg, Ida Haendel, Roman Nodel, Felix Ayo, as well as many of the leading young soloists of his generation. Significant part of his annual chamber music agenda occupies the festival Musikfest Schloss Wonfurt in Bavaria, which he has been running as artistic director since 2003. Eliah was also the creator and artistic director of the Festival Sefarad – a production of Casa Sefarad in the Spanish capital Madrid. His solo appearances include concerts with the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra, the Auckland Chamber Orchestra, The Plovdiv Philharmonic and others.

Eliah has recorded a portrait CD of contemporary German composer F.-F. Kaern in cooperation with the German Radio Deutschland Radio Kultur and was released in 2000 by the Mannheim Music Academy. Eliah’s concert appearances have been broadcast by Deutschland Radio Kultur, Classical Arts Showcase (USA), Radio Cultura (Brazil), Israel’s Kol haMusika, the Bulgarian National Radio and Radio New Zealand Concert.

Enjoying a growing popularity as a teacher, Eliah started off as a faculty member of the Feuermann-Conservatory, the Cello School of the prestigious Kronberg Academy in Germany. Since then he has been invited to lecture and tutor at the Auckland University, the Royal Irish Academy of Music (Dublin), the New Zealand School of Music (Wellington), Monash University (Melbourne), the Otago University (Dunedin). He has also been tutor at the the Auckland String Quartet Summer School, the Education Outreach Programmes of the Orquestra Sinfónica de Barra Mansa in Brazil, as well as the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra.

Eliah plays a master cello by French luthier Leon Bernardel, Paris 1899. He dominates six languages and lives in Auckland, New Zealand with his wife Caroline von Bismarck and daughter Hannah Floria.

David Sharp  –  Conductor

David Sharp was awarded a Bachelor of Music Performance with Honours in Conducting from The University of Adelaide in 1995. Since graduating he has conducted many of the major Symphony Orchestras of Australia, appeared on television, film and radio, and conducted orchestras overseas.

Since 2005 David has taken an increasingly major role with the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra. He is the conductor and director of the ASO’s highly successful Tea and Symphony concert series and has conducted the orchestra’s East End Rush Hour Concert Series, including world premieres of works by John Polglase and Calvin Bowman. He has also conducted Family concerts, regional tours, and the very popular ASO Alfresco concerts at Mt Lofty Botanic Gardens and Monarto.

David enjoys working with young people, conducting a number of Education projects for the ASO and performing engagements with the Adelaide Youth Orchestra and the Elder Conservatorium Symphony Orchestra.

Sarah Watkins – Pianist

Sarah Watkins has enjoyed an impressive career as chamber musician, collaborative partner and recording artist, touring widely throughout Japan, England and the US with some of America’s leading instrumentalists. In 2002 Sarah formed NZTrio with violinist Justine Cormack and cellist Ashley Brown, a group recognized as one of New Zealand’s most dynamic music ensembles. Sarah has been an official pianist for the Michael Hill International Violin Competition since its inception in 2001, has performed as a freelance player in the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra, and the Auckland Chamber Orchestra, and has appeared as concerto soloist with St. Matthew’s Chamber Orchestra, ACO, and the APO. In 2014 she 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.

Sarah is a graduate of the Juilliard School in New York City, where she earned both Master of Music and Doctor of Musical Arts degrees in collaborative piano. Resident in the US for fourteen years, Sarah worked as a staff pianist at Juilliard, Yale University and the Aspen Music Festival.  Among academic highlights was her work as coordinator of the collaborative piano program at the Music Academy of the West in Santa Barbara, California, and several years tenure on the music faculty of Purchase College, New York. During the period 2004-2009 NZTrio was ensemble in residence at the University of Auckland, where Sarah also taught collaborative piano and chamber music.

David Squire – Conductor

David Squire is one of New Zealand’s most prominent choral conductors, and Music Director of the New Zealand Youth Choir. A founding member of the New Zealand Association of Choral Directors, he is also a national conducting advisor and tutor, and a governance board member of the New Zealand Choral Federation.

David completed his undergraduate study at the University of Auckland, with an emphasis on conducting and composition, and recently graduated with a Master of Music degree with first class honours in choral conducting. He studied singing with Isabel Cunningham, Glenese Blake and Beatrice Webster, and conducting with Karen Grylls and Juan Matteucci. He has sung with many top choirs in New Zealand, including the Auckland Dorian Choir, University of Auckland Chamber Choir and the New Zealand Youth Choir. He was also a founding member of Voices New Zealand Chamber Choir and the V8 Vocal Ensemble.

David has taught music in secondary schools for more than 25 years, directing choirs, orchestras and bands, including many groups that have won local, national and international awards. His mixed-voice chamber choir from Rangitoto College, The Fundamentals, won the platinum award at the 2008 NZCF Big Sing Finale in Wellington – the first time a mixed-voice choir achieved this. The Westlake Symphony Orchestra has won a gold award at every KBB Music Festival for more than fifteen years, and also won every award for the best orchestral performance of a New Zealand work for ten of the eleven years it has been presented. In July 2014 the orchestra won first equal prize at the Summa Cum Laude International Youth Music Festival in Vienna, Austria. His girls’ choir from Kristin School, Euphony, was placed third in the open female choir competition at the International Musical Eisteddfod in Llangollen, Wales, in July 2013. As a freelance itinerant teacher, David teaches in several secondary schools and also takes workshops and professional development courses throughout the country. David has been the assistant musical director of the New Zealand Secondary Students’ Choir, founding musical director of the Auckland Youth Big Band, chairman and administrator of the KBB Music Festival, and a live performance reviewer for Radio NZ Concert. He is often involved in session and recording work, particularly as a conductor, adjudicator, clinician and singer, including a tour with George Benson as backing vocalist in 2010. He was the choral adjudicator and clinician at the Rhapsody Rotorua festival for four consecutive years. He presented workshops at the 2009, 2013 and 2016 Sing Aotearoa Festivals and the 2010 International Summer School of Choral Conducting, where he was a mentor and tutor. In 2011 he directed training workshops for choirs singing the anthems at the Rugby World Cup, and then conducted anthem choirs at seven matches. In 2012 he was a mentor and workshop presenter at the inaugural ACD Choral Connect convention.

In March 2011 he was awarded a New Zealander of the Year Local Heroes Medal for services to music education.

Te Oti Rakena – Baritone

Te Oti Rakena is an American trained singer.  He studied at New England Conservatory in Boston with master teacher Edward Sambara.  He received his doctorate in vocal studies from the University of Texas in Austin and undertook three years post-doctoral study in Germany.

Te Oti is an active performer and researcher.  He is known for his willingness to sing across the vocal genres and in diverse performance contexts.  Since returning to New Zealand he has re-established his performing career alongside his teaching position at the University of Auckland.  He is currently the Associate Dean Maori and Pacific for the Faculty of Creative Arts and Industries and Coordinator of Vocal Studies in the School of Music.  In 2012 he performed in the world premier of Even de Castro-Robinson’s Len Lye the Opera.  He followed this with a performance of Mahler’s Songs of the Wayfarer, and participated in the Auckland Philharmonia mentoring scheme, Sing with Te Oti, where young singers auditioned to sing with Te Oti and the orchestra.  In 2016 he was the baritone soloist in Carmina Burana with the Auckland Choral Society and premiered David Hamilton’s work Erebus with the same organisationIn March 2017 Te Oti performed in the world premier of Gareth Farr’s The Bone Feeder, commissioned by Auckland Arts Festival and presented in association with NZ Opera.

As a researcher, he as published widely in the area of studio pedagogy and community music.  He is the first indigenous academic to be appointed as a commissioner on the Community Music Activities research commission of the International Music Society of Music Educators.  He has participated in research initiatives aimed at improving the quality of education for Maori and Pacific Island music students in the tertiary sector.  He has won two Excellence in Equity awards for his work and in 2010 received an Excellence in Teaching award for his implementation of innovative teaching practices in the area of vocal studies.  His students have included several high profile NZ singers including Hadleigh Adams – 2014 Adler Fellow at San Francisco Opera, Moses Mackay of Sol3 Mio and Benson Wilson, winner of the 2016 Lexus Song Quest.  Te Oti’s iwi affiliations are Ngapuhi, Ngati Ruanui and Kai Tahu.

Auckland Youth Choir – Choir

The choir was set up in 1984 because it was felt there was a need for such a choir to provide choral training at a time when it was not provided in all schools, and to bridge the gap between school-leaving age and the more adult choirs. Those factors may not apply today but the initial aims and aspirations of the choir have not changed – that is to provide a training and development vehicle for young choristers and to achieve high standards of performance.

The initiative to set up the choir came from the Dorian Choir Committee who successfully approached the then Northern Regional Arts Council for a setting-up grant. The list of attendees at the inaugural meeting reads like a musical “who’s who” and more than 100 young people auditioned and were accepted into the choir. Andrew Carter, now a well known English composer, conductor and tutor was in New Zealand from York Minster as a result of an exchange visit with Peter Godfrey and was offered and accepted the initial conductorship. Following Andrew’s return to England, Brigid McLafferty took over the reins for 5 years and established the choir as a major part of the youth music scene in Auckland and the choir gained an international reputation under the conductorship of Terence Maskell when it won music competitions in Sydney and Melbourne in 1993 and 1994 respectively. Terence was Musical Director for 9 years until he moved on in 2001 to establish the now highly respected Graduate Choir. Subsequent conductors have been Stuart Weightman, Claire Caldwell, Iain Tetley, Rachel Young, Rostislava (Ronnie) Pankova-Karadjov.

The Current Musical Director and Conductor is Lachlan Craig.