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NZSO Announces Departure Of Concertmaster

The New Zealand Symphony Orchestra announced today that Wilma Smith, NZSO Concertmaster, has resigned from her position effective from 31 December 2002. Fijian New Zealander Wilma Smith has held the position since 1993 when she made NZSO history by being the first woman appointed to a traditionally male dominated role.

Speaking today from Melbourne, Wilma said "Over the last decade it has been exciting to see the continued growth in support that New Zealand gives its national orchestra and the pride that New Zealanders can take in their Symphony. I have been privileged to work with some of the best conductors and soloists in the world, but equally important has been the fantastic support from my colleagues. I will miss them all."

In recognition of the special part that she has played in the NZSO's development, Wilma will continue her association with the orchestra through a new position of Concertmaster Emeritus.

Born in Suva and raised in Auckland, Wilma studied at Auckland University and following early professional experience with the NZSO, Wilma headed for Boston where she continued her studies at the New England Conservatory with Dorothy DeLay and Louis Krasner, performing in masterclasses for many others including Josef Gingold, Yehudi Menuhin, Sandor Vegh and Joseph Silverstein.

In 1980 Wilma became founding first violinist of the Lydian String Quartet in residence at Brandeis University. The Lydians were prizewinners at the Evian, Banff and Portsmouth International String Quartet Competitions and also took America's most prestigious chamber music prize, the Naumburg Award, in New York in 1984. Wilma's orchestral life continued alongside the chamber music.

She was Concertmaster of the Harvard Chamber Orchestra and Handel and Haydn Society, a baroque violinist with period instrument orchestras and also a regular with the Boston Symphony Orchestra. An invitation from Chamber Music New Zealand to found the New Zealand String Quartet brought Wilma back to Wellington in 1987. She enjoyed five years of the quartet's growth including a successful Australian tour for Musica Viva in 1990 before taking up her current position as Concertmaster of the NZSO.

Speaking today, Peter Walls, NZSO Deputy Chairman said "I would like, on behalf of the NZSO, to take this opportunity to congratulate Wilma on her new appointment. She will, of course, be greatly missed in New Zealand. Wilma has made an outstanding contribution to the orchestra over the last decade. She is a wonderful violinist and a natural leader, respected and loved by all who have worked with her."

Wilma leaves New Zealand to take up the position of Co-Concertmaster with the Melbourne Symphony from January 2003 and will re-locate with her family Melbourne. She joins an exclusive group of women who have held the position of concertmaster with the Melbourne Symphony during the history of that orchestra.


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