Q&A with APO Assistant Conductor-In-Residence, Vincent Hardaker

APO’s Ben Gemmell talks to new Assistant Conductor-in-Residence Vincent Hardaker about what the newly-established role means for New Zealand’s orchestras and who he really is behind the baton.

Where are you from?
From here in New Zealand, Christchurch to be specific 

How long have you been in this position with Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra?
In theory, I started at the end of March this year, though a certain virus had another set of plans for me! 

What does APO’s new Assistant Conductor-in-Residence mean? What will you be doing?
An assistant can mean many different things depending on the orchestra it is with. Amazingly, this role seems to be unique worldwide in that my assistantship spans over most of the professional orchestras in New Zealand.

As for what I do, in this case it is equivalent to what a business internship would be. I am incredibly fortunate that the position has been well thought-out, and will involve a range of opportunities: mentorship from other conductors and staff, observing and learning from the rehearsal process, and conducting the orchestras.

What excites you about this role?
Of course, I am looking forward to working with some of the talented musicians and conductors, but it has been a personal goal to give back to the musical ecosystem that created me. I cannot wait to do some community and education-based concerts. 

What is your musical background? Have you always wanted to be a conductor?
I started playing piano and viola quite young (yes, viola! It was a restrung violin). Later I found piano to be too much hard work, so I gave up and started playing trumpet. It would have been great for many reasons to have kept playing piano, but, as it turns out, trumpet plunged me into the world of jazz. In addition to this, violists usually have a shy chip on their shoulder, and trumpet players have the opposite. Now my chips are balanced!

As for conducting, my passion was ignited in high school and has stuck with me ever since.

What advice can you give to any aspiring conductors or musicians who want to make it in the industry?
I'll let them know when I've made it myself! But what I can say is this: Pursuit of anything (especially becoming a musician) can be an incredible chance for self-development and self-exploration. If you embrace this, then you will make it no matter how your career turns out.

Can you play any instruments?
Yes. Viola and trumpet and a very small bit of piano. 

How did you pass the time during New Zealand’s lockdown?
I read a lot and walked as much as I could get away with. It is a perfect time to explore some of the ideas and thoughts that usually pass me by when I am in score-study mode.

What are your interests outside of music?
I know it doesn’t count for this question but playing chamber music is pretty much outside my musical world these days and I love and miss it! But to play fair, I love lively debates with friends. I am also very interested in the field of human health. I love to read different genres of books, but especially those with a philosophical or spiritual bent

What makes you happiest?
The feeling after a really good rehearsal or performance. It can be bittersweet as it may be no good at all, but for those moments right after it feels amazing.

What might surprise people to know about you?
I did door-to-door sales for two years and was actually quite good at it. Home insulation, if anyone was wondering. I can also do a pretty good latte-art swan from all my time working in cafés.

Quickfire! What is your favourite-at-the-moment...?

Book: Yuval Noah Hurari’s 21 Lessons for the 21st Century
Movie: Severely out of date, but The Joker
TV ShowBrooklyn 99
Food: A perfect steak
Song: ‘If the World was Ending’ by JP Saxe featuring Julia Michaels

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