About Us

Course Background

The New Zealand Secondary Schools Orchestral Course was instituted in the 1960s and has subsequently evolved into the course now known as the NZSSSO (the NZ Secondary Schools Symphony Orchestra). It is funded through a combination of course fees and a small annual grant from the Ministry of Education. Since 1985 the NZSSSO has been organised by the Christchurch Itinerant Teachers of Music – now the Forte Itinerant Music Service which is managed by Hagley College. It offers a valuable opportunity for some of New Zealand’s top secondary school orchestral musicians to represent their school, and receive the opportunity to experience playing in a full Symphony Orchestra. Students are selected by audition.

The NZSSSO course runs for six days, during which students participate in a variety of practical sessions - culminating in two public performances. Each year the standard reached has remained high, with full-scale orchestral works being performed. It is widely regarded as a significant training ground for young players aspiring to membership of the New Zealand Youth Orchestra and ultimately to a career as a professional musician.

Recent years have featured outstanding students as soloists: Violinist Isaac Shatford in 2018; Clarinet player Mark Holdaway in 2017; French Horn player Geeny Moon in 2016; Cellist Matthias Balzat in 2015; Pianist Han Sol Jung in 2014; Percussionist Andy Bell in 2013; Saxophonist Sam Jones in 2012; the Oswin family in 2010; Horn players Alex Morton and Prang Rojanachotikul in 2009; Double Bass player and composer Michael Bell in 2008: A Quartet including Kate Oswin-Vln, Jane Macklan-Ob, Sylvia Nissen-Cello, Alicia McNeill-Bsn in 2007; Pianist Jenny Cho 2005; Trombonist Blair Sinclair 2004; Percussionist Takumi Motokawa & Christopher Bruerton 2003; Pianist Michelle Hsiao 2002; Violinist Ben Morrison, Yoomi Sim, Thomas Lee, Broderick Lin 2001; Violinist Sarah Buchan 2000; Cellist Yoon Jung Kim 1999; Violinist Chai-Nan Hung 1998; Pianist Caroline Wu 1997; Clarinettist Mark Cookson 1996; Pianist Rachel Fuller 1995; Violinist Huy Nguyen Bui 1994; Composer/Pianist Jeremy Cullen 1993; Violinist Matthew Ross; Recorder players Melissa Farrow & Hester Lees Jeffries 1992; Pianist Carol Dodge 1991; Flutist Paula Jane Hamilton 1990; Horn Bernie Mann 1989; Cellist James Bush & Simon Rogers 1988; Viola Tony van Buren 1987; Pianist Eugene Albulescu 1986; Pianist Tim Emerson 1985.

Apart from the undoubted musical benefits of the course, the social aspect is also significant. The contacts and friendships made here are often lasting and important for the aspiring musician's journey ahead.

Nicky Fogden-Smith, Director
Kerrin Brizzell, Course Coordinator