Auckland music teacher scores as Assistant Conductor for Choirs Aotearoa
Fiona Wilson has just been announced as the inaugural 2024 Assistant Conductor for Choirs Aotearoa New Zealand, the body that governs our four national choirs. This new role is part of a dedicated annual mentoring programme that will see Fiona working one-on-one with acclaimed New Zealand conductor and Choirs Aotearoa Artistic Director, Dr Karen Grylls (CMNZ). The programme is designed to develop future choral leaders for Aotearoa, and Karen will actively mentor Fiona for 12 months.
“The role of Assistant Conductor was hotly contested,” says Karen, “The calibre of applicants was impressive, which bodes well for a healthy future for choral music in Aotearoa. I’m delighted to announce that Fiona is the successful candidate for 2024. Many of the choirs she’s led have won competitions, here and overseas, and in April 2023, she represented New Zealand in the Conducting Masterclass at the World Choir Games in Istanbul.”
Fiona has been Head of Music at Westlake Girls High School for ten years during which time she’s earned the school half a dozen gold medals at the highly-competitive Big Sing Finale – New Zealand’s national choral festival for secondary schools. Fiona is also a singer and is currently a soprano in Voices New Zealand, our premier national chamber choir. Fiona has toured with Voices to the United Kingdom, Spain, France and Germany and performed with internationally acclaimed artists Eric Whitaker, The Kings Singers and Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, here and overseas. In her new role, Fiona will also work with Voices NZ as a conductor, including at the Compose Aotearoa workshops later in 2024 when she will work with the winners of the national choral composition competition.
“I’m excited to be selected for this new role and look forward to working with Karen Grylls, the other national choirs’ music directors and, of course, the talented members of our national choirs,” says Fiona. “I’ve always worked hard to empower singers to explore a diverse range of vocal colours and expressions and ignite a profound appreciation for music, enabling every member to thrive as both an artist and an individual”.
As well as Fiona’s work at Westlake Girls’, recent highlights include last year conducting competition pieces with Voices NZ and composers at CANZ Composers Workshop in Wellington and working with community choirs for the Northland region local community. In 2022, Fiona shadowed Karen Grylls as Chorus Master for Voices NZ in concert with Eric Whitacre and his award-winning work, The Secret Veil. In 2021, she was Chorus Master for Voices NZ in concert with the APO for ‘The Blue Planet’.
This year, Fiona’s been the Chorus Director for the recent New Zealand Opera Summer School and coming up soon, Fiona will be leading workshops and performance to open the Auckland Arts Festival in Choirs Aotearoa’s event Waiata Mai.
More about Fiona Wilson & Dr Karen Grylls
Fiona has a Bachelor of Music from Auckland University, a secondary teaching diploma from Auckland College of Education and a Master of Arts in Music Education from the University of London Institute of Education (2002–2006). She is trained in the Kodály method of teaching music.
Fiona was a member of the BBC Symphony Chorus, London (1997–2001) with the choir included in annual concert programming for the BBC promos and touring to Istanbul and Vienna. She is a current soprano in Voices New Zealand choir and toured internationally including to the Tolosa International Choral Competition, Spain (1998). Fiona was a member of the New Zealand Youth Choir (1991–1996) and toured to the World Symposium of Choral Music in Sydney in 1996 and the World Symposium of Choral Music in Vancouver in 1993.
As director of the Westlake Girls’ choir Cantare:
2023: The Big Sing Finale: Gold Award. Best Performance of Choral Art Song (joint winner)
2023: The Big Sing Auckland Regional: Best Festival Programme by a Female Choir. Best Performance of an Unaccompanied Work
2022: The Big Sing Finale: Gold Award. Best Performance of Choral Art Song
2022: The Big Sing Auckland Regional: Best Festival Programme by a Female Choir
Best A Cappella Performance in Any Genre. Adjudicators Award for any Performance of a Single Work.
2021: The Big Sing Auckland Regional: Best Festival Programme by a Female Choir.Spirit of the Festival Award.
2019, 2018, 2017: The Big Sing National Finale: Gold Awards
2018: Concert with Toronto Children’s Chorus on New Zealand tour
2017: National Choral Conference and ASPIRE Music Festival, Brisbane – Best Performance Award
2016 & 2015: The Big Sing National Finale: Silver Awards
As director of the Westlake Boys’ and Girls’ choir Choralation:
2023: The Big Sing Finale: Gold Award. Auahi Kore Performance Award for Best Performance of a piece with text in Te Reo Māori
2023: The Big Sing Auckland Regional: Best Festival Program by a Mixed Choir. Adjudicators Award for any Performance of a Single Work
2023: Concerts with Auckland Chamber Choir, APO, recording and featured in the NZ film Tinā
Dr Karen Grylls CNZM
Karen founded Voices New Zealand Chamber Choir in 1998 and is its artistic director. Karen was made a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit in 2023 for services to choral music. She led the NZ Youth Choir to international recognition as Best Mixed Choir at the 2007 Cantonigrós International Music Festival, Choir of the World at the International Eisteddfod and Overall Best Choir at Cantat Grand Prix in 1999. Karen was appointed Kaitiaki of Te Whānau Wehi and Waka Huia in 1999, bringing Māori music to the forefront of choral performance in New Zealand for more than two decades. She is founding director and Conductor Emerita of the University of Auckland Chamber Choir, having been principal conductor from 2006 to 2022. She established the University’s postgraduate choral conducting programmes in 2006.
Karen is also co-Artistic Director of the New Zealand Children’s Choral Academy founded in 2022. From 2002 to 2008 she was a Board member of the International Federation of Choral Music and has been a Founding Board member of the New Zealand Choral Federation since 1985.