New pitch: Sir Michael Hill and Anne Rodda


A new Queenstown Music Festival will replace next year’s 11th edition of the Michael Hill
International Violin Competition.

Sponsored by Arrowtown jeweller Sir Michael Hill’s family, the world-renowned contest’s run every two years since 2001, with Queenstown hosting the first two rounds and
Auckland the finals.

This month, with no end in sight to Covid-19 border closures, the event’s board decided to can next year’s competition.Instead it’s approved six initiatives primarily aimed at increasing opportunities for New Zealand, as well as local, classical musicians, embracing
orchestral instruments, piano and voice.

The centrepiece music festival will run over the same dates — Queen’s Birthday Weekend, in early June — the violin comp would have run over.

It will include performances from NZ’s top classical talent, from 12 NZ up-and-comers, aged 16 to 28, who’ll be chosen by audition, and from selected local students.

On the final morning they’ll combine to perform a specially-commissioned work, while the
festival will also feature training opportunities.

The weekend will also provide training for about 10 young adults, ideally locals, in event and stage management roles.

In another initiative, organisers are creating a string instrument bank, asking Kiwis to either donate student instruments for learners in financial need or, in the case of more valuable instruments, to loan them to talented young musicians.

In each case, repairs would be made, if needed.

Violin comp executive director Anne Rodda, who’s been involved since day one, hopes the festival will attract the same sort of numbers the Queenstown rounds of the competition do, half of whom traditionally come from out of town.

She says what her board is doing is a case of ‘‘giving back’’, especially to young artists whose prospects of going overseas to continue their studies have been thwarted indefinitely.

That ‘‘giving back’’ principle also extends to the comp’s ‘‘spiritual home’’ of Queenstown,
she adds.

‘‘In the big picture, I feel like we’re not only doing the right things for the hearts and minds of Kiwis right now, but we’re also building a stronger foundation for our ongoing future.’’

Rodda adds Hill’s family is again stumping up the lion’s share of the cost.

‘‘It will still be a six-figure sum.’’

That’s despite the financial hit the family firm, Michael Hill International, has taken from the Covid-19 crisis, she says.

‘‘To me, that says they’re really committed to giving back and to doing something pretty special for the district.’’