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NZ School of Music welcomes a musical 'archaeologist'

NZSM welcomes a musical 'archaeologist'

It was a near thing. A scholarship was the turning point that ensured Dr Erin Helyard studied harpsichords and virginals rather than Hellenism and vestal virgins!

Te Koki, New Zealand School of Music, welcomes Dr Erin Helyard onto the teaching staff as Lecturer in Period Performance working across both the Music Studies and Classical Performance programmes.

Erin grew up in Gosford, a small town about an hour north of Sydney, and excelled in subjects that were unusual in such a setting. “It was a bit insular for someone who loved archaeology and harpsichords! I gained ridiculously high HSC grades (Higher School Certificate) of 99.95% in subjects like Ancient Greek, Music and General Studies,” he recalls. “When I decided to go to Sydney University I was considering focusing on the archaeological study of Ancient Greece, but was offered a Music scholarship so decided to pursue that.

Erin graduated from the Sydney Conservatorium of Music in 1999 with first-class honours and the University Medal and was additionally awarded the inaugural Lenore Buckle Scholarship for Music. He played principal continuo with the Australian Chamber Orchestra working closely with Richard Tognetti – “an amazing musician, a rare genius” – and was one of the founding artistic directors of Sydney’s Pinchgut Opera as well as tutoring at the Conservatorium.

By 2003, Erin had decided to pursue further studies and allowed his academic ‘evolution’ to mirror the historical musical evolution: he moved on from harpsichord to fortepiano. “I had met fortepiano specialist Tom Beghin in masterclasses and applied to be his student at UCLA but before I got there he had switched to McGill University in Montréal, Canada, so I decided to move with him. Montréal is a fantastic city with a vibrant urban culture that engages with all the arts. I am a huge advocate for live performance and I thoroughly enjoyed my time there.”

He completed his Masters in fortepiano performance with Tom Beghin at the Schulich School of Music, McGill University, Montréal in 2005. Pursuing a passion for the music and culture of the eighteenth century and the ideals of the Enlightenment, he completed a PhD in musicology at the same institution in 2011. He was named the Westfield Concert Scholar for 2009-2010, an initiative of the John Ernest Foundation and the Westfield Center, Cornell University, NY, USA. A highlight of his solo concert tour was an acclaimed recital on historical instruments in the collection of the Smithsonian Museum.

His role as a scholar-performer is one which he enjoys immensely. “In North America it is becoming less rare. People tend to specialise in Performance or Musicology or Music Theory, seeing them as discrete disciplines with few points of continuity.

“This is one of the things that really attracted me to NZSM, as the flexibility of the programme here means I can be a scholar-performer and pursue both roles in my work. The other aspect that really impressed me when I visited last year was the inquisitive intelligence of the student body. They were really curious about learning more about historically-informed performance and meeting them was fulfilling. I’m certainly looking forward to my work here.”


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