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Sarah Ballard wins prestigious NZSO Young Composers Awards

28 November 2012

Young composer Sarah Ballard wins prestigious NZSO Todd Corporation Young Composers Awards

Auckland-based music student Sarah Ballard is this year’s NZSO Todd Corporation Young Composers Awards winner.

It is the second time Sarah has been a participant in the prestigious national composers’ programme, but she didn’t expect to take home the grand prize at yesterday’s award ceremony in Wellington.

“I’m surprised and overwhelmed,” she said following the announcement. “This programme is a melting pot of compositional styles and I love absorbing all of them.”

Sarah plans to keep composing and complete her Masters in composition at the University of Auckland under the tutelage of John Elmsly and Leonie Holmes.

“I always love being part of this programme because each composer’s musical style feeds into my subconscious. It enhances my experience as a composer and may even lead to what I produce next.”

Sarah’s piece Bitter Hill is based on the landscape around the Waikato River, where she grew up.

“When you look into the river, you can almost hear the steamer boats that used to make their trade there. The farming community across the bridge is Pukekawa, which means ‘hill of bitter memories’. The land and atmosphere, accompanied by the senses, is very much a part of my being. Mercer, where I grew up, was a great place to explore my imagination.”

This year’s NZSO Todd Corporation Young Composers Awards, now in its eighth year, featured compositions by eight aspiring composers from Auckland, Wellington, Dunedin and Blenheim. Each composer was selected after submitting their scores to a panel of industry professionals.

Dunedin-based composer Anthony Ritchie was this year’s programme mentor and judge. He worked closely with each composer throughout the three days, offering compositional tips of the trade.

Ritchie said Sarah’s piece Bitter Hill was very “moving”.

“Sarah is a composer who has been working on developing her voice further and you can hear it in Bitter Hill. It is a bold work and very professionally produced.”

Composer Wesley Webb received the Orchestra’s Choice Award for his programmatic work The Last Moa, written from the perspective of the last remaining moa. This award is decided by vote by the players of the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra.

“Wesley’s composition is very well-created and he has great skill in the way he puts forward his ideas,” said Anthony Ritchie.

The New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, led by Kiwi conductor Tecwyn Evans, performed each work during the three-day programme. NZSO players from the Percussion, Woodwind and Strings sections offered in-depth master classes for the young composers. Radio New Zealand Concert recorded each piece to be broadcast next year.

Sarah received a gift and cash prize from Sir John Todd at the ceremony.

“These young composers are making New Zealand a better place because they’re contributing to our culture,” said Sir John Todd following the announcement.

For more about the NZSO Todd Corporation Young Composers Awards click here >


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