Students to work with world-leading cellists

20 July 2016

Matthias Balzat

Conservatorium of Music student Matthias Balzat is competing in the Wallace International Cello Competition as part of the week-long festival.

The Waikato International Cello Fest 2016 is fast approaching and for a number of University of Waikato and Hamilton-based students, this means getting ready to work with some of the world’s finest concert cellists, Wolfgang Schmidt and Li-Wei Qin, as well as the leading professors from the Paris Conservatoire, Philippe Muller, and the “rock-star” from Juilliard, Richard Aaron.

Throughout the festival at the Gallagher Academy of Performing Arts from 21-28 August, there will be daily masterclasses during which promising students will spend 45 minutes with up to four of the teachers performing a range of repertoire. Festival Director James Tennant says these classes "offer a chance like no other to both impress the international guests, as well as form connections that will serve them well in the future".

For the Conservatorium of Music’s Matthias Balzat, the masterclasses are tied to his involvement in the Wallace International Cello Competition – the finals of which are being held on Monday 22 August. Not only would the $10,000 prize pool, donated by the Wallace Foundation, help to fund to travel for future music events, the competition also represents an opportunity to add to Matthias' impressive and growing competition resumé, including shared first prize in the 2014 National Concerto Competition.

Other Hamilton-based students in the masterclasses include national chamber music finalists, Hyein Kim and Joo Eun Kim both at Hillcrest High School, as well as Matthew Chanwai, the festival’s youngest participant. Matthew says he was really excited when he found out he'd been selected to attend the masterclasses at the festival. "I'm really looking forward to meeting and learning from these famous cellists because it will help me improve my playing so much.”

Students will be attending from around the world, including several studying in Australia, Singapore and as far away as Switzerland and the United Kingdom. Luke Severn from Melbourne is looking forward to rubbing shoulders with cellists from all over. “It's is a huge honour for me to be a part of the competition and the festival. I love events like this that bring people from everywhere together over a common love of music and the cello,” he says.

Festival Manager Nick Braae had originally expected to be putting together a programme for about 12 students, but has had applications from 24 cellists. “It’s wonderful to see the festival appealing to students from all over the world. Even now, people are still emailing to see if they can make it into the festival. It makes the scheduling difficult, but it’s great a problem to have,” Nick says.

Members of the public are welcome to attend all of the classes for just $5 a session and see the talents of the students and teachers performing. For just $100, audience members can pair the masterclass attendance with a few concerts during the week and make the most of what the Waikato International Cello Fest 2016 has to offer.

For more information visit or contact the Festival Manager Nick Braae at