From Sesame St to the world stage


Sesame Street is a favourite childhood pastime for countless people around the world, but one particular episode changed Jacqueline Audas’ life forever.

At just two-years-old, Audas, who grew up in Idaho in the USA, became awe-struck watching renowned Israeli-American violinist and conductor Itzhak Perlman perform on an episode of the muppet TV show.

In that moment, Audas declared to her parents that she too would become a violinist.

Believing it was a momentary wish, however, her mum joked Audas was “too young” to play the instrument and told her “to get back to me when you’re three”.

Proving strong-willed even as a toddler, Audas reminded her parents of her musical dream on her 3rd birthday — and she hasn’t put down the bow since.

Fast forward 20 years later, and the 23-year-old has an undergraduate qualification from the Shepherd School of Music at Rice University, is studying a master’s degree in musical performance, and is one of 16 finalists set to battle it out in The Michael Hill International Violin Competition.

The budding young maestros will first compete in the quarter finals of the esteemed violin competition — which is in its 10th year — in Queenstown, held between May 31 and June 3.

Winners go on to the semi-finals, held on June 5 and 6 in Auckland, and potentially the grand final, on June 8 in Auckland.

The top violinist wins $40,000, a recording contract with New Zealand record label Atoll, and will also go on a performance tour across this country and Australia.
Furthermore, the competition has helped catapult many young violinists’ careers.

Taking the crown would be “absolutely incredible” and a “wonderful validation of years of hard work”, says Audas, who practises up to 30 hours a week.

“Playing the violin is an integral part of my life.

“It has been part of my identity for as long as I can remember … I think one of the most exciting things about being a musician is that I will never stop learning.’’

Musical talent seems to run in the family; Audas’ identical twin sister is a gifted cello player. The pair performed together at the Aspen Music Festival a few years ago.

Having never been to NZ and also being a keen hiker, Audas is hoping to get out into Queenstown’s hills during any down time from the competition.

“I’ve heard it is a beautiful place to visit … and I’m curious to learn more about the food and culture of New Zealand, as a whole.’’

The Michael Hill International Violin Competition is open to the public.

Tickets can be purchased at