Semi-finalist hosting opportunities and more

Hosts with the most

With a Competition the size of ours, it’s very easy for those working tirelessly behind the scenes to fall under the radar. One of those people is our Queenstown Co-ordinator, Amber Murrell of Parnell Partners Group.
Amber assists with the management of the Queenstown component of the Competition, which includes the very important role of finding host families for the semi-finalists who travel a long way from home to compete. She is also responsible for engaging local sponsors and coordinating the front of house during the event – no mean feat!
We had a quick chat to her…
Tell us about your role
I have a very rewarding role as I get to see the results of the many months of hard work behind the scenes come to life. From the moment the competitors arrive in Queenstown, and you see their faces light up with the beauty of their surrounds and the excitement of what lies ahead, you know you are part of something special. Oh, and you get to experience some incredible music performed by some of the best young artists in the world!
How does the family hosting process work?
We reach out to the local community for volunteers who are able to offer a room in their home for a competitor to stay during their time in Queenstown and then in Auckland. Hosting is a very important part of the Competition as, for many of these young artists, it is their first big adventure away from home. It is the equivalent to competing for a gold medal at the Olympic Games, so to have a family that welcomes and supports you can make a significant difference in your success.
What does the family need to do?
Primarily offer a comfortable and inviting environment for the competitor to stay during their time in Queenstown and Auckland. The competitors do need to be driven to their rehearsals and all of their performances so there is an element of taxi service involved (not unlike having your own teenage kids in the house!). We try to be mindful of this when coordinating rehearsals and support the families as best we can, to make the experience enjoyable and not a chore.
What are the benefits of hosting a participant?
The material benefits include complimentary tickets to the Competition, but I think more importantly it is the opportunity to be an integral part of this world-recognised event that is the greater motivation for the families.
The hosting families have opportunities throughout the event to connect and there is a great sense of camaraderie. Families with young children find it immensely rewarding to expose their children to these artists, as the children witness the dedication, determination and focus of these artists, first hand. They hear about the long hours devoted to their craft and it is an eye opening experience for our local kids who have such a blessed lifestyle in Queenstown. It can really help to inspire kids.
What are the benefits to the participant?
For the participants being in a hosted family environment rather than isolated in a hotel room can be the difference between success and failure. The participants require support, some nerve calming, the odd bit of ironing (!) and a friendly face in the audience cheering them on!
Have you any stories you’d like to share about families that have hosted before?
This is now the eighth year I have been involved and what still warms me to my toes is hearing that the host families have decided at the last minute to follow their competitor to Auckland to support them in the next stage of Competition. I can’t even imagine how very special the artist must feel to have a family take this journey with them.
What else are you up to?
As a Global Experience Specialist, Parnell Partners Group are rights holders to some of the world’s leading sporting events. 2015 is a very exciting year for us - we have engaged a number of corporate clients for whom we are co-ordinating tickets and travel to the Cricket World Cup in New Zealand and Australia. As an Official Travel Agent for Rugby World Cup 2015 (Australia & non designated territories) we are selling tickets and experiences to the Rugby World Cup 2015. And, to really keep us on our toes, we are already well under way with plans for the Summer Olympic Games in Rio 2016! So it’s a very exciting time for us and our involvement with the Michael Hill International Violin Competition is a perfect complement to our portfolio of world-class events. 
Nikki Chooi (2013 winner) with his Auckland hosts, Peter Wilson and Gerda McGechan, and his Queenstown hosts, Barbara and Neil Simpson.

Scholarship for Gisborne

New Zealand has a handful of very good music competitions – among them is the Gisborne International Music Competition, held every December for all instruments. The Michael Hill International Violin Competition has offered a scholarship to one of the Gisborne Competition’s prize winners.
The inaugural scholarship recipient is 18-year-old Anna Da Silva Chen from Sydney. Anna was the highest placed violinist at the 2014 Gisborne International Music Competition and took out the Professor Jack Richards String Player Award.
Anna will be invited to attend and observe the Michael Hill performances in Queenstown and Auckland as our guest and participate in the professional development activities we offer in each location.
Anna is currently student in the Open Academy Rising stars program at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music where she has a full scholarship from the William Mcllrath Charitable Foundation.
Born in Sydney to Portuguese and Chinese parents, Anna began learning the violin at the age of eight and currently studies with Associate Professor Alice Waten. She had gained her Associate and Licentiate diplomas, both with distinction, by the age of 13.
Mark La Roche, Manager of the Gisborne International Music Competition, said, “We're tremendously excited by this new partnership and to be able to offer one of our violinists the chance to immerse themselves in all the developmental opportunities surrounding the Michael Hill International Violin Competition in both Queenstown and Auckland. This is an invaluable opportunity and I know Anna will absorb everything this scholarship has to offer.”

Focus on: Timothy Chooi (Semi-finalist)

In November last year, after a long few days of listening and discussion, our Selection Panel got a huge surprise to discover the 18-finalist line-up comprised 17 females! And the surprise didn’t end there – the one male in the final selection was Aaron Timothy Chooi, the younger brother of 2013 Competition winner, Nikki Chooi.
Timothy, as he is known, told us a bit about what he’s up to at the moment and how he feels about flying solo with 17 women!
So you’re the only male in an 18-person line up – how does that feel?
I feel very fortunate to be chosen as the male representative for this year’s Competition - I get to represent the male community! It’s funny because I think we are seeing this trend in recent competitions. I fully respect everyone participating in the Competition, so gender doesn’t matter anymore.
What do you think will be the most difficult elements of this year’s Competition?
I think the most difficult element will be the concertmaster solo excerpt. It’s something unique to this competition and I’m glad that it will be incorporated into this year. My experience of concertmaster excerpts is relatively limited so I am looking forward to this challenge.
How are you preparing – physically and mentally – for the Competition? 
I think competitions are always a unique experience - just the general concept is very different compared to a performance. 
Physically, I try to keep myself balanced with a healthy diet, regular exercise, a healthy amount of practice and of course, a good amount of sleep. I think all of these things ensure I am in a good mental position.  
With that set in place, I can gear towards preparing myself artistically. If I have my own space and freedom to prepare for what I believe is good preparation, and I’ve put in the work, I think I’d be happy regardless of the results. I will be meticulous about the actual practice itself, such as intonation, phrasing etc, as I should be even if it weren’t in a competition. 
Most importantly I think it’s important for me to know mentally that when I’m on stage I’m me, not somebody else.
Your brother Nikki won this competition in 2013, what advice has he given you?
My brother has given me a lot of different advice, from learning a piece to how to write emails! He always supports me, and offers advice about his own personal experiences and how they relate to me.  I’m really fortunate to have a brother who can do that.
What are you looking forward to most about coming to New Zealand?
I’ve never been to New Zealand and I’ve been told about how beautiful it is. Many people have said that it looks very similar to my hometown in Vancouver Island, Canada, so I can’t wait to see it for myself. 
I’m also looking forward to meeting the wonderful people that are working for the competition - my experience has been fabulous so far and my brother has told me how wonderful they are. 
I’ve also heard that being in the Southern Hemisphere, the water goes in the drain in the opposite direction to the Northern hemisphere?
What’s on your agenda between now and June?
On top of the regular academic calendar at Curtis, I have a few concerts before June. One concert I am particularly looking forward to is in March where will be making my debut with the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra.
I will also be preparing for the Michael Hill International Violin Competition, of course.
Who inspires you?
I have so many people that inspire me. My teacher, Ida Kavafian, has been a close inspiration for me for the past five years. Her dedication to all of her students is something I feel fortunate to be a part of. 
Pinchas Zukerman has been a mentor of mine since I was very young. I first met him when I was nine and he has seen me grow up. I was fortunate to perform with his orchestra in Canada a few months ago with him conducting.
Finally, a personal and longtime inspiration of mine has been my brother. Although we have had a significant number of years apart, we are extremely close in almost every field. It feels like he is my twin most of the time, but he is so much more knowledgeable than I could ever imagine myself to be. I’ve learned so much from him, not just in music but in growing up and going through life as well.
What are you listening to at the moment?
I am listening to Saint Saëns Sonata No. 1 in d minor! I love this piece and I’m learning it right now. I’ll be playing it in August so I’m so looking forward to putting the pieces together. 
I’m also listening to Prokofiev’s Symphony No. 5 - it was the last piece I played with my brother while we were both at Curtis Institute of Music, and I remember how difficult and jarring it was for me to play this! It created so many great memories that I would never ever give it up for anything.

Sponsorship update

Our sponsor family is growing! We’re very pleased to welcome back Jim and Helen Hannan as competitor sponsors for this Competition and thank them sincerely for their support.
Men’s outfitters Working Style are also coming on board again as a prize sponsor, generously donating a tailor-made design for the winner to wear on their Winner’s Tour, if it is a – actually, the – male.
They sit alongside Aotearoa’s stunning gown guru Kiri Nathan who is the prize sponsor if one of our 17 gorgeous female semi-finalists take out the prize.

Don't miss...

It’s a big year for classical music in New Zealand. So, while the excitement builds towards June, here are a few other fantastic events we recommend you consider attending in the meantime.
The thirteenth Adams Chamber Music Festival opened on 29 January in New Zealand’s ‘Salzberg of the South’, sunny Nelson. You’ve still got time to catch the wonderful Ying Quartet playing a programme centred around Tchaikovsky’s famous D Major quartet; a series of Festival Conversations with journalist Elizabeth Kerr and the Festival’s first Waitangi Day concert, PianoFest V: In Memoriam Judith Clark which honours Wellington’s piano guru, Judith Clark, whose influence reached generations of New Zealand pianists.

The Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra’s first performance of 2015 opens on 19 February and they’re starting the year in a big way with violinist Ilya Gringolts performing in the New Zealand Herald Premier Series’ The Planets.

Opening with John Adams’ breathtaking fanfare for orchestra, Short Ride in a Fast Machine, and a powerful violin concerto by former APO composer-in-residence Ross Harris, Gringolts will then perform Gustav Holst’s magnificent seven-movement suite with the APO. 

Don't forget...

All live rounds of the Michael Hill International Violin Competition are open to the public – tickets will be on sale soon.
For more information, please visit or view the Competition’s Facebook page. 
Copyright © 2015 Michael Hill International Violin Competition, All rights reserved.

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