The home of new zealand’s national choirs

Our national choirs

New Zealand Secondary Students choir

est. 1986

Nationally auditioned choir of students aged 13 – 18 years
Latest events


est. 1979

Nationally auditioned choir of singers 18 – 25 years old
Latest events

voices new Zealand Chamber Choir

est. 1998

New Zealand’s premier professional chamber choir
Latest events


COMPETITION: Compose Aotearoa!

Posted Oct 2020

A new national initiative to stimulate the creation of new and diverse New Zealand music for choirs! Deadline 10 Nov 2020. Read more…

New era for national choirs

posted january 2019

New Zealand’s three national choirs come together for the first time under one governing body. Nation Secondary Students’ Choir joins the team. Read more…



For everyone who wants to leave a gift to create a legacy for New Zealand’s choirs, the Choirs Aotearoa New Zealand Foundation has been launched. Read more…


Our story

“This is a story of vision and commitment in which eight themes can be traced. These themes are: high quality musical leadership, a culture of high sacrifice and high reward, challenging repertoire, good communication within all levels of the choir, improving musicianship, and the loyalty of audiences and sponsors.” – Choir of the World:  Simon Tipping published by Dunmore Press 2002.

Choirs Aotearoa New Zealand Trust’s purpose is to create, nurture and promote vocal excellence in choral singing.

Our objective is to sustain and promote three complementary but distinct choirs; an internationally renowned professional choir – VOICES New Zealand , and two youth choirs, the New Zealand Youth Choir and New Zealand Secondary Students’ Choir, which inspire and develop New Zealand’s extraordinary young talent.

Photo: this background picture is a snapshot from the first rehearsal of the then National Youth Choir in August 1979 at Knox Church Hall in Lower Hutt.

Board of Trustees

Under the artistic guidance of

2019 –             Susan Densem (Music Director – NZSSC)
2011 –             David Squire (Music Director – NZYC)
1989 –             Dr Karen Grylls (Artistic Director)
1983 – 1988   Prof. Peter Godfrey (Music Director)
1979 – 1984   Prof. Peter Godfrey (Guest Conductor)
1982 – 1987   David Wood (Assistant Music Director)
1979 – 1982   Dr Guy Jansen (Music Director)

and under the management of:
2016 –             Arne Herrmann
2010 – 2016   Roger Lloyd
2008 – 2010   Barbara George
2002 – 2007   Jenny Jamieson
2001 – 2002   Lucy Tod
2001 – 2001   Mark da Vanzo
1992 – 2001   Jacqui Simpson
1989 – 1992   Neil Henderson
1985 – 1988   Paddy Nash
1979 – 1984   Colin Brown

Our People

Our trustees and senior staff



Amanda Barclay is a lawyer and public servant based in Wellington.
She holds a Bachelor of Laws and Bachelor of Music from the
University of Otago, and a Masters in Law, (In House Practice) from
the College of Law in Sydney.
Amanda has been a member of all three national choirs; NZSSC,
National Youth Choir and Voices NZ, as well as being a member of the New Zealand Opera Chorus
and Wellington based Tudor Consort ensemble.

Diana Cable

Trustee since 1989

Diana Cable has 24 years’ experience in the arts sector. After 4 years as an Industrial Relations Officer in the State Services Commission, Diana turned to the arts in 1986. One year managing Wellington City Opera was followed by 10 years as a Music Producer at Radio New Zealand Concert. She then worked as an independent producer for 7 years and was appointed as Artistic Administrator of the New Zealand International Arts Festival in 2003, after working for the Festival on a contract basis from 1997.

Having managed the Lexus Song Quest (formerly Mobil) since 1990, Diana also has considerable experience working with young singers.

Diana is a member of the Board of Trustees of Choirs Aotearoa New Zealand and Chair of its Artistic Advisory Group, a member of the Wellington Creative Communities grants committee and a Past President of the New Zealand Opera Society.

Diana is an alumnus of the New Zealand Youth Choir

Warren kilham

Trustee since 2020

Warren Kilham is a Chartered Accountant and business leader based in Auckland. He holds a Bachelor of Music and a Bachelor of Commerce from the University of Auckland and is a member of the Institute of Directors. Warren has been a member of two of the three national choirs, New Zealand Youth Choir and Voices New Zealand Chamber Choir.


Trustee since 2020

Richard was a founding member of the NZ Youth Choir and has also sung in the NZ Opera Chorus, Viva Voce, and Auckland Choral; initially as a B2 but latterly as a B1. He took degrees in chemistry (Auckland) and history of science (Princeton) and now is General Manager of the University of Auckland Foundation and its endowment fund. He also chairs the board governing the Auckland Observatory and Planetarium (aka “Stardome”). 


Trustee since 2019

Katie is an experienced secondary school educator, both in the classroom and as a mentor, head of department and professional development facilitator. She holds a BMus(Hons) in Performance Flute and a Masters in Education. Recent masters research explored the development of a bi-cultural pedagogy for music education in Aotearoa/New Zealand. Experienced choral director having worked with choirs such as the NZ Secondary Students’ Choir, Wellington Youth Choir, Sing Your Lungs Out (SYLO), the Wellington College Chorale and Wellington Young Voices.

Diccon Sim

Trustee since 2015

Diccon Sim is a partner in Dunedin law firm, Gallaway Cook Allan. He studied Philosophy and Law at the University of Otago and also holds a Bachelor of Civil Law degree from Oxford University.

He was a member of the New Zealand Youth Choir from 1983 to 1988, and a member of its management committee during that time. A longstanding member of Dunedin’s St Paul’s Cathedral Choir, he has also sung as a tenor Vicar Choral in the choir of Wells Cathedral, and was a member of Schola Cantorum of Oxford during his postgraduate studies.     

Diccon serves on the Board of Dunedin’s Selwyn College as well as the Boards of a number of trusts in the disability sector. He is also Chancellor of the Anglican Diocese of Dunedin and a Proprietor of St Hilda’s Collegiate School.

Diccon has been Choirs Aotearoa’s Honorary Solicitor for a number of years.

linda image june 2017 (1)


Trustee since 2019

I have extensive experience in education that includes lecturing in pre-service teacher education, coordinating Professional Practice and the selection of teacher trainee intakes; teaching in a range of settings as a music specialist and classroom generalist in primary schools and the wider community. 

Governance roles have included chairing Music Education New Zealand Aotearoa (MENZA), and the inaugural NZSM MMus Therapy post graduate programme external advisory board. Currently I am President and interim Chair for the Music Therapy New Zealand Council (MThNZ) and have recently been a member of the Registration Board. I am the national representative for MENZA on the International Society for Music Education (ISME) Council, and a member of the Advocacy working group.  

My longstanding interest in supporting emerging talent includes young singers, and I have had the privilege of Chairing the NZSSC Trust Board for ten years. I am excited by the new opportunities that merging with CANZ brings, and look forward to working on the CANZ Board to further champion and expand the scope of the national choirs.  


Arne Herrmann

chief executive

Arne Herrmann has worked for over 20 years in Arts and Festival Management in New Zealand.

He held senior management positions at New Zealand Festival, Auckland Arts Festival, Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra, UNITEC School of Performing and Screen Arts and the contemporary dance company The Human Garden. Arne was the Festival Director of the National Jazz Festival and Garden&ArtFest in Tauranga. His work also included the Lexus SongQuest, Michael Hill International Violin Competition, Wellington 
Jazz Festival and National Youth Jazz Competition.

As freelance consultant Arne’s clients included the New Zealand Opera, Indian Ink Theatre, Te Matatini Kapa Haka Festival and the Hamilton Gardens Arts Festival.

Arne Herrmann took up the role as Chief Executive of Choirs Aotearoa New Zealand in May 2016.




Louise has over 10 years working in Arts Management in a variety of fields. She gained a Bachelor of Arts in Theatre Studies from Otago University before beginning her career as Stage Manager at the Fortune Theatre in Dunedin.  

Moving to the UK in 2012 expanded her career with production and management roles in opera, dance, television and film. 

Returning to NZ in 2016, Louise worked in production management for the animated TV series Thunderbirds Are Go!, and most recently was working with the Royal New Zealand Ballet as Operations Manager.  

Louise joined Choirs Aotearoa NZ in January 2020 as Manager of NZYC and Voices NZ.


anna bowron

NZSSC Manager

Anna studied languages and business at Waikato University and later, during years working and travelling in the UK, decided on a career in arts management. 

Following postgraduate studies in Arts Administration, she worked in touring theatre production in the north of England. 

On her return to New Zealand, Anna worked for Taki Rua Productions as Business Manager, producing ground-breaking theatre from Maori playwrights including Witi Ihimaera, Toa Fraser and Briar Grace-Smith, and touring Maori language plays to schools and kohanga reo throughout New Zealand. Anna joined NZSSC in 2009, working alongside Artistic Director Andrew Withington for nine years.

Ben fagan

Marketing Manager

Ben Fagan is a poet, producer and marketer. He comes to Choirs NZ from a stint in London where he was the digital media coordinator for Apples and Snakes, the UK’s premiere spoken word poetry production company.

He is a Trustee of the National Youth Drama School, where he also holds the role of Assistant Artistic Director.

As a poet Ben has performed across the USA, UK and NZ, has taken two shows to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and had his first book published in 2017. In 2018 Ben co-founded Motif Poetry, a charitable trust dedicated to teaching and producing live poetry in Aotearoa.

He currently sings with Wellington choir Supertonic.




music director - voices nz

Dr Karen Grylls ONZM founded Voices New Zealand Chamber Choir in 1998 and the choir has achieved great acclaim internationally in performance and recording. She is Associate Professor in Choral Conducting at the University of Auckland and was Conductor and Artistic Director of the New Zealand Youth Choir from 1989 to 2011, and Artistic Director of Toronto’s Exultate Chamber Choir from 2011 to 2013.

In 1996 Auckland University honoured her with a Distinguished Teaching Award in Music and in 1999 she became an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit (ONZM) for her services to choral music. Karen is much in demand as an adjudicator for competitions worldwide, including the 48th International competition in Tolosa, the Marktoberdorf International Chamber Choir Competition, Bavaria, and The World Choir Games in Xiamen, China. She is sought internationally as a choral clinician and regularly conducts masterclasses and workshops in Wales, England, North America, Canada and Australia.


David Squire

Music Director - NZ Youth Choir

David Squire is one of New Zealand’s most prominent conductors, and Music Director of the New Zealand Youth Choir. Founding member and vice-chair of the New Zealand Association of Choral Directors, he is also a national conducting advisor and tutor, and a governance board member of the New Zealand Choral Federation.

David was appointed to the position of Music Director of the New Zealand Youth Choir in 2011, and is the first alumnus conductor of the choir. He has led the choir on two international tours, including the USA and Canada in 2013, which featured performances of the War Requiem by Britten in the Walk Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, as well as concerts in Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, Boston, New York and Washington DC. In 2016 the choir gave concerts in Singapore, the Czech Republic, France and the UK. Tour highlights included singing high mass at Notre-Dame in Paris, a lunchtime concert at Windsor Castle, and producing a live DVD recording of a well-received concert at St Johns Smith Square in London. The choir also participated in the Festival of Academic Choirs in Pardubice, Czech Republic, winning every category it entered, as well as the prize for outstanding vocal culture, and then going on to win the Grand Prix.

In March 2011 he was awarded a New Zealander of the Year Local Heroes Medal for services to music education.


Sue Densem

Music director - NZSSC

Susan’s professional singing career began in 1986 with Canterbury Opera, then continued as an opera singer and soprano soloist for many choral societies within New Zealand and Australia. She has toured extensively overseas performing with a number of ensembles and has been a soloist on many occasions for Sir David Willcocks. 

After completing her music and teaching qualifications in Christchurch, she studied voice at the Queensland Conservatorium of Music. Susan is currently working as an ITM at Burnside High School where she teaches voice and conducts three award-winning choirs. She has also been Music Director of the Jubilate Singers and the University of Canterbury Chamber Choir (Consortia). As a chorister, she has sung in Voices New Zealand, NZ National Youth Choir, the Jubilate Singers and the Queensland University Chamber Singers.

National Choirs
Singers nationwide
Songs in library
singers trained

New Zealand Choral Academy

The second National Choral Academy is coming in 2021, while you wait you can revisit a few moments of the first academy in this sneak peek.

Sing and train alongside national choirs


Organised by 
Choirs Aotearoa New Zealand, all three national choirs (NZ Secondary Students’ Choir, NZ Youth Choir, Voices NZ) will be in residence, rehearsing, singing together, and enjoying the expert tutelage of our professional artistic staff. A cohort of singers from our Reserves Programme will also be attending workshops in musicianship, vocal and conducting techniques.


Artistic Staff in Residence 2021

Dr Karen Grylls
David Squire
Dr Morag Atchison
Michael Stewart
Robert Wiremu
Catrin Johnsson
Rachel Alexander
Brent Stewart
Elise Bradley

Choirs Aotearoa New Zealand Foundation

The Foundation is a charity created to build a capital endowment fund to future-proof New Zealand’s national choirs as they transform lives through and pursue excellence in choral music. This fund will help the choirs sing forever!

Find out more here.


Judith Harvey
Warwick Mitchell
Warren Kilham


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