With his eyes set on the Norbert Heuser Viola Award since his days at Kāpiti College, viola player Zephyr Wills has proved to himself that when it comes to playing a musical instrument, practice does pay off.
Playing in the National Youth Orchestra for the third time, this year Zephyr achieved his goal of being awarded the orchestra's Norbert Heuser Viola Award at the end of their season.
"I've been gunning for the Norbert Heuser Viola Award since my Kāpiti College days, and it's reassuring to be occasionally reminded that practice has a curious way of paying off in the end," Zephyr said.
Playing instruments for most of his life and growing up with a blues musician for a father, Zephyr has been exposed to a variety of musical genres from an early age.
"My love for classical music was mostly fostered at Kāpiti College thanks to my wondrous teachers Gioia Brunoro and Douglas Beilman.
"Kāpiti College was a fabulous support zone for a kid like me, who only really wanted to engage with political and historical literature, write poems, and make music."
While at Kāpiti College he was a national finalist in the national chamber music competition alongside other Kāpiti College students.
Now in his last year studying a Bachelor of Music with Honours at the NZSM, Zephyr is looking to further his musical study overseas.
"Last week I auditioned for the Australian National Academy of Music, but I've also got my eye on an MA at Yale and/or Juilliard, Covid-19 allowing.
"I've also heard whispers that Germany is a hotspot for viola performance, so I'm also investigating universities in Berlin, Leipzig, and Munich."
Performing with the NYO has fostered Zephyr's love of music and provided an environment in which to engage with other young, like-minded musicians.
"Music, for me, embodies a rare artistic medium of raw emotional expression.
"It creates a deep human connection with composers and audiences alike, alongside developing a profound sense of inner self.
"Some of the best life lessons I've learned have come from the emotional self-awareness I have experienced through musical performance.
"NYO was particularly exciting this year as we got to perform Shostakovich's monumental Leningrad Symphony side by side with the NZSO.
"I was thrilled this year to have been selected as section principal, although I had to pinch myself every time I sat next to the NZSO associate principal violist Alexander McFarlane.
"Alex is a wizard on that viola and an extremely inspiring character.
"The two weeks of rehearsing and performing with Alex and the NZSO were immensely educational and I made some great friends and contacts within the orchestra which I hope to maintain.
"It was a great honour to receive the Norbert Heuser Viola Award at NYO's conclusion after working alongside such fabulous musicians.
"I felt as if I was swimming through an unreal dream."
The award is presented to a member of the viola section and honours Norbert Heuser (1948-2014), a former viola player who dedicated 38 years of service to the NZSO.
Zephyr's seat in the NYO has been sponsored by Professor Les Holborow.