Former Dunedin conductor Holly Mathieson prepares to
adjudicate at the Dunedin Performing Arts Competition
Society Instrumental Festival at Hutton Theatre yesterday.
Photo by Craig Baxter.
This weekend nearly 30 years ago Holly Mathieson was a
She was a 5-year-old, sitting at a piano, feet dangling over
the edge of the stool, preparing to compete for the first
time in the Dunedin Performing Arts Competition Society
This week, the 33-year-old is back - but this time, her feet
are firmly on the floor as the festival's adjudicator.
''It's far less nerve-racking being on the other side of the
''It's really nice to be doing it and remembering what it was
like for me - how nervous I used to get, to the point of
These days, the former Dunedin conductor is artistic director
of the Horizont Musik-Kollektiv, in Berlin, and co-director
of the Reuleaux Ensemble, in London.
And over the next 12 months, she will take up one of the
world's most coveted fellowships for emerging conductors, at
the Royal Scottish Conservatoire, in Glasgow.
The fellowship comes on the back of her recent work with some
of the world's leading orchestras, and she will have
opportunities to work with the BBC Scottish Symphony
Orchestra, Scottish Opera, Royal Scottish National Orchestra,
and Red Note Ensemble.
Dr Mathieson says competing in the Dunedin Performing Arts
Competition Society Instrumental Festival, and others like
it, helped steer her towards the career she now enjoys.
''I think learning whether or not you can handle that intense
pressure and focus, and the discipline of it, is an important
part of cluing into whether or not there is any point in
trying to make this a career."
While many disagree with the competitive nature of music
competitions, Dr Mathieson believes they are a positive
''I think with the way the New Zealand education system is
right now, it's incredibly important that there are still
areas of New Zealand life in which children are taught about
excellence and attainment in competition, and trying to
improve at something.
She said auditioning was a big part of becoming a
professional musician, and often there was only one seat up
''The competing element of music never ends.''
Dr Mathieson is now looking forward to a short break from her
music commitments after a busy year.
She will return to London next week to move into a new flat
with fiance Jon Hargreaves.
Not surprisingly, he too is a musician - a conductor,
composer and arranger.
The pair are trying to juggle music commitments to make time
available this time next year, so they can finally tie the