New NZ Assistant Conductor-in-Residence appointed for National Orchestra Network

Changes to New Zealand’s Covid-related border restrictions will mean Sydney based conductor Leonard Weiss can now take up the prestigious role as New Zealand’s Assistant Conductor-in-Residence after a two-month delay.

The position is funded by Creative New Zealand and managed by the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra (APO), but the role in fact represents a collaboration between the APO, Christchurch Symphony Orchestra (CSO), Dunedin Symphony Orchestra (DSO) and New Zealand Symphony Orchestra (NZSO).

“This national Assistant Conductor-in-Residence Programme was created as a long-term strategy to build greater depth amongst emerging conductors within Australasia.” says APO Chief Executive Barbara Glaser.

“While these gifted young conductors get to benefit from being immersed in a professional orchestral environment close to home, our audiences can look forward to seeing more locally-based talent on the conductor’s podium thriving and developing alongside our orchestras.”

Maestro Weiss takes over from the inaugural recipient, Vincent Hardaker.

“This role offers me a chance to be a part of the season ‘life-cycle’ of each of these fantastic ensembles” explains Weiss, who has recently returned from a year of advanced study with Maestro Marin Alsop as the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra’s 2020-21 BSO-Peabody Fellow.

“It will be an incredibly busy time but I’m thrilled to have a developmental opportunity as significant as this, at this stage in my career and to be able to contribute to the orchestras’ musical lives in such a meaningful way.”

The auditions for this position took place across the later months of 2021. The traditional process would normally have seen shortlisted applicants auditioning live with the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra, to showcase their skills from the podium in person.

This ‘live’ aspect of the audition experience was ultimately impacted by COVID but the subsequent online interview and audition process was no less intense.

“My last interview was on Zoom and lasted for well over an hour” recalls Weiss.

“I faced a huge panel of musicians and members of the management teams from all the orchestras across New Zealand. I was particularly conscious of Maestro Bellincampi leading much of the questioning. He was tuning in from his home base in Europe and I think it must have been about 3 or 4 in the morning for him!

It was an amazing process, and I was struck by how incredibly warm and welcoming everyone was. I can’t wait to meet everyone in person.”

Over the course of his tenure Weiss will participate in a structured development and performance programme led by the APO’s Music Director Giordano Bellincampi and supported by the music directors and guest conductors from the other New Zealand orchestras.

Weiss will be engaged to conduct rehearsals and concerts across all the orchestras’ 2022 seasons and will also play a part in behind the scenes planning and strategy sessions with the music directors and artistic planning teams.

In addition to his own ongoing coaching and development, Weiss will also be in a position to share his own expertise by engaging with young aspiring conductors, composers and ensembles studying at school and at university.

“I have an undergraduate degree in composition from ANU in Canberra and also a masters in teaching, so I’m especially excited by the chance to work with young Kiwi composers and lead the various workshops scheduled around the country while I am in New Zealand. It’s a special honour to be part of the creative process that brings new works to life in front of an audience for the first time.

Another personal highlight for me will be the chance to shadow Maestro Bellincampi and the APO during their performances of Verdi’s Requiem and their Opera in Concert presentation of Il Trovatore. To watch these works come together under a conductor of this calibre will be a once in a lifetime opportunity!”

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