Soloists & Conductors

Conductors and Soloists for our 2021 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 and living in London.

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.

Hamilton Civic Choir – Choir

Since beginning in 1946, the Hamilton Civic Choir has enjoyed a reputation as one of New Zealand’s finest Choirs.

Being a fully auditioned choir, we are able to perform works outside the scope of many community-based choirs. In addition to the large choral works of the great composers, usually performed with organ or orchestral accompaniment and the best national and international soloists, the choir’s repertoire includes chamber music and other shorter and more modern works.

Currently we comprise about 40 singers, some of whom travel from other Waikato towns to sing with us. The choir has a wide and varied repertoire, presenting masterpieces of western musical culture under the direction of both local and international conductors.

Our high standing in the music scene in this country is shown by the fact that we have been chosen several times to sing major choral works with the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra.

This will be the choir’s second collaboration with SMCO.

Beth Cohen – Conductor

Beth Cohen graduated in music from Brandeis University and earned a master’s degree in orchestral conducting from the University of Wisconsin (USA)

She  worked for over 30 years throughout the New York City metropolitan area where she gained a reputation as an enthusiastic, energetic, and dedicated educator and conductor.

Beth made her Carnegie Hall debut with the Manhattan Philharmonic and subsequently conducted the New American Chamber Orchestra, the InterSchools Orchestras of New York and the Stevens University Orchestra.  Beth’s work as a conductor was highlighted on CBS News 60 minutes the New York Times Magazine and other national publications and reviewed by the New York Times.

Beth is founding Music Director of  the non-profit Youth Music Group www.youthmusicgroup.org and CEO of the for-profit educational consulting company, Cohen Arts & Education – www.cohenartsed.com

Since emigrating to New Zealand Beth has conducted the Christchurch School of Music Camerata Strings and ISO Orchestras, the Canterbury Regional Schools Orchestra,  Resonance Orchestra, Auckland Philharmonia “Play in South” and outreach concerts, and has served as orchestra and bands adjudicator of the KBB Music Festival. She currently serves as conductor of the Christchurch’s Garden City Orchestra and Auckland’s Victorious March Band which recently won Gold in the NZCBA Festival.  Beth will be guest conducting St Michael’s Orchestra of Auckland in September of 2020.

Somi Kim – Pianist

South Korean born New Zealand pianist, Somi Kim has established herself as one of today’s most highly regarded young pianists with a string of competition successes and an extensive concert experience.

Somi is an Associate of the Royal Academy of Music. She graduated with an Advanced Diploma in Performance and Master of Arts with Distinction, receiving the HRH Princess Alice the Duchess of Gloucester’s Prize, a DipRAM and the Christian Carpenter Prize for the Best Recital. Somi is the 2017 winner of the Royal Over-Seas League Accompanist Prize, and has received the Gerald Moore Award for Accompanists, AESS Patricia Routledge National English Song Accompanist Prize, Mozart Singing Competition Accompanist Prize, Bromsgrove International Musicians Competition Accompanist Prize, Vivian Langrish Memorial Trust Prize, Thomas Art of Song Accompanist Prize, Major van Someron-Godfery Prize for Accompanists, WCOM Concordia Serena Nevill and Barthel Prizes and the 6th Pettman/Royal Over-Seas League Arts International Scholarship. Somi made her debut with Chamber Music New Zealand in 2015.​

Sought after as a chamber musician, song accompanist and répétiteur, Somi is an artist for the Kirckman Concert Society, Park Lane Group, Concordia Foundation and is a Yeoman of the Worshipful Company of Musicians. Somi is a scholar on the Britten-Pears and Samling Artist Programmes, Georg Solti Accademia, and is a staff pianist at the International Holland Music Sessions, International Vocal Competition ‘s-Hertogenbosch, Gisborne International Music Competition and the New Zealand Opera School. Somi is the official pianist with the NZTrio –  a piano trio that is recognised as a ‘national treasure’ and as ‘New Zealand’s most indispensable ensemble’.

In recital, Somi’s recent and future appearances include Het Concertgebouw, Slovak Philharmonic, Wigmore Hall, St. John’s Smith Square, Cadogan Hall, Bridgewater Hall and the Edinburgh Fringe, Ryedale, St Endellion and Oxford Lieder Festivals.

Diedre Irons – Pianist

Diedre Irons is one of New Zealand’s most distinguished performing musicians. Born in Winnipeg, Canada she made her deut with the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra at the age of 12, playing the Schumann Piano Concerto.  She graduated from the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia and was subsequently invited by her teacher, Rudolf Serkin, to join the faculty of that prestigious conservatory where she taught for the next seven years.  During those years she toured Canada and the USA as a soloist and as a chamber music player.

Since moving to New Zealand in 1977 Irons has performed regularly with the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, the Auckland Philharmonia and the Christchurch Symphony, toured many times under the auspices of Chamber Music New Zealand and recorded extensively for Radio New Zealand.  With the Christchurch Symphony Orchestra and conductor Marc Taddei, she has recorded the complete Beethoven Piano Concerti on the Trust Label.

Irons has travelled internationally having to date presented concerts in 25 countries.  She was awarded an MBE in 1989 and an ONZM in 2011 for services to music and in 2007 received the degree Doctor of Music (honoris causa) from Brandon University in Manitoba, Canada.

She taught at the University of Canterbury form 1992-2003 and in 2011 left her position as the Head of Classical Performance at the NZ School of Music, in order to focus fully on her own career as a concert pianist.

Christopher Seeman with the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra, Marko Letonja and Christopher Seeman with the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra, and Johannes Fritzsch with the Queensland Symphony Orchestra.

David made his conducting debut with the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra in 2009 and since then has featured regularly as a guest conductor of various educational and outreach programs. In 2011 he collaborated with Graham Abbott in his popular series Unwrap the Music, in 2012 made his debut with the Christchurch Symphony Orchestra and also featured on the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra’s ‘Soundtrack to Auckland’. In 2010 he was a guest conductor for the contemporary music ensemble 175 East, and in 2011 made his debut with the St Matthews Chamber Orchestra in Auckland.

Brent Stewart – Conductor

Brent Stewart was appointed Music Director of Wellington’s symphonic choir, The Orpheus Choir of Wellington in 2014. He also currently serves as sub-principal percussionist of Orchestra Wellington, Head of Music at Wellington East Girls’ College, and Assistant Director of the New Zealand Secondary Students’ Choir.

At the end of 2016, after ten successful years, he left his post as Music Director of the Hutt Valley Orchestra. Brent studied at Auckland University, Victoria University of Wellington and the New Zealand School of Music. He holds a Bachelor of Music with First Class Honours in Classical Performance alongside a Graduate Diploma in Education. Brent has extensive experience performing and touring both nationally and internationally.

He has performed as a concerto-soloist (percussion) with the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, Wellington Youth Orchestra, and the Auckland Philharmonia. He regularly performs with the Royal New Zealand Ballet and New Zealand Opera.   Brent is motivated by the belief that music is the greatest way to unite, share, inspire, grow, learn, and express the human condition. He is driven to make music for both audiences and performers more accessible through understanding and enjoyment.

Andrew Beer – Violinist

Andrew Beer has been described as a ‘virtuoso’ by the San Francisco Classical Voice ‘possessing a glorious string tone’ by Strad Magazine and as a ‘musical gift’ by the New York Times.  He has performed extensively in North America, Europe, Asia and Australasia. He has worked closely with leading contemporary composers on their solo and chamber works, including Pierre Boulez, Mario Davidovsky, Gyorgy Kurtag and Steve Reich and takes a great interest in the gifted NZ composers.

His debut Rattle Records CD with pianist Sarah Watkins ’11 Frames’, features many of them. Andrew has been Concertmaster of the Auckland Philharmonia since 2014 and has performed with the CBSO (Birmingham), Halle (Manchester), MSO (Melbourne), ASO (Adelaide) and VSO (Vancouver).

He teaches both privately and at the University of Auckland and has been a guest teacher and performer at Harvard and McGill Universities.  He was awarded a U.S. Congressional Commendation in 2006 for his humanitarian and outreach concerts.

Vincent Hardaker – Conductor

Vincent Hardaker is one of New Zealand’s most promising up-and-coming conductors and is currently Assistant Conductor in Residence for all professional orchestras in New Zealand. In June 2020 he graduated from the Soloist Class in Orchestral Conducting from the Royal Danish Academy of Music (DKDM).

In recent years he was the NZSO Conducting Fellow, through which he assisted Jose Luis Gomez for the NZSO National Youth Orchestra, and received mentorship from such conductors as Vasily Petrenko, Pietari Inkinen and Simone Young. Significant conducting masterclasses include the Odense, Aarhus, Sønderjyllands, Copenhagen, Tasmanian, Adelaide, West Australian, Auckland Philharmonia and New Zealand Symphony Orchestras with conductors such as James Judd, Marko Letonja and Nicholas Carter.

He was assistant for Opus Orchestra in 2014 and Orchestra Wellington in 2015-2016. His opera experience includes being music director for a DKDM production of “Postcard from Morocco”, a world-premiere production with Opera Otago and assisting on various productions.

In 2014 Vincent graduated from the New Zealand School of Music with a Bachelor of Music in conducting under Kenneth Young and viola under Gillian Ansell

Ashley Brown – Cellist

Acclaimed as a musician of “unimpeachable artistry”, Ashley Brown is one of New Zealand’s leading soloists, collaborators, chamber musicians and recording artists. He was a member of the Turnovsky Trio, Principal Cellist of the APO, is a founder of NZTrio and is a passionate advocate for New    Zealand music. His teachers have included Alexander Ivashkin, Aldo Parisot and William Pleeth.

His musical curiosity has led him to share the stage with diverse composers and artists like Dame Gillian Whitehead, Moana Maniapoto, Michael Houstoun, Kristian Jaarvi and Neil Finn. Ashley plays the 1762 William Forster ‘Liberte’ cello.