Young musicians are tuning up for months of competition and performance, writes Dionne Christian.

Commitment to practice, an enthusiastic work ethic - perhaps a competitive streak - and the wisdom to eat well and get enough sleep.

These are the qualities not only of a top sportsman or woman, but also those of the country's leading young musicians playing - or singing - their way to excellence.

In the next few months, thousands of young musicians will participate in highly regarded musical events around Aotearoa.

Other youngsters can attend a concert and see and hear what it takes; music lovers can be awed by the next generation of performers. Violinist Natalie Lin, 26, comes home from Houston, Texas to perform as part of Chamber Music New Zealand's concert season. In 2005 the then St Cuthbert's College student's piano quartet won the contest. She is now studying music performance at Rice University's Shepherd School of Music.


Now celebrating its 50th jubilee, it is the only nationwide chamber music competition for secondary school musicians and composers. "[It] was actually a huge part of my musical upbringing," says Lin. "I entered every year from Year 9 and I developed a love for chamber music. It was a really good experience to have the opportunity to play and learn alongside others. That's a skill you have to learn: how to work with others in a performance environment."

She has also competed in the international Michael Hill Violin Competition, earning 6th prize and the Audience Choice Award in 2013.

This year, 20 of the world's finest young violinists perform in Queenstown and Auckland. The 18 semi-finalists will be joined by the New Zealand and Australian Development prizewinners, Amalia Hall and Markiyan Melnychenko.

Like Lin, Hall, 26, studied in the United States but now travels the world as a freelance musician. She got her start as a preschooler because she wanted to join her three older siblings in their own string quartet. The Rangitoto College student also played in the Chamber Music NZ Contest and was a member of the National Youth Orchestra.

She says having the support of her mum and dad - "I don't know how they made the time to drive us to all the activities we were doing" - was a huge boost but, ultimately, if a career in music is your dream, then go for it.

Also over the next few weeks, nearly 10,000 secondary school students from 250 school choirs perform in the Big Sing 2015.

The New Zealand Choral Federation runs 11 regional festivals culminating in a grand finale gala concert.

Many of the students then continue to sing with national choirs competing in prestigious international choral competitions.

Music teachers David Squire and Terence Maskell have conducted choirs in the event since the 1990s.

Squire, also the musical director for the National Youth Choir, now conducts Westlake Boys' High School's Voicemale and Kristin School's female choir Euphony.

Maskell, the conductor of the Graduate Choir New Zealand, took Aorere College's school choir to the top of the competition.

Nikki Chooi won the 2013 Michael Hill Violin competition. Photo / Supplied
Nikki Chooi won the 2013 Michael Hill Violin competition. Photo / Supplied

Along the way, he encouraged brothers Pene and Amitai Pati now part of the renowned trio, Sole Mio. Squire and Maskell say choral singing has numerous other benefits.

As well as learning ensemble singing, vocal technique, language and repertoire, choirs are a terrific way to develop friendships, build confidence and learn teamwork.

"There's nothing quite like the Big Sing Finale," says Squire. "It has a really special atmosphere to it. Singers just love performing to other people who have worked as hard as they have to get there and value the journey as much as the end result."

Need to know

There are many places where youngsters can go to learn music, including singing, in the community and with visiting music teachers at schools.

The Chamber Music New Zealand Contest: Northern Districts Tauranga on June 2; Auckland June 3-7; Hamilton June 9; Whangarei June 10.

The Michael Hill Violin Competition: Queenstown June 5-8; Auckland June10-11; final concert, with Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra, Auckland Town Hall, June 13. Check out free public workshops, master classes and Classroom Conversation for school students.

The Big Sing: regional gala concerts, Auckland June 9-11, gala concert Auckland Town Hall, June 11. Gala finale, Michael Fowler Centre, Wellington, August 15.