NZYSW | NZ Youth Symphonic Winds

The New Zealand Youth Symphonic Winds (NZYSW) was a new initiative in 2014. The band was run by a team of adults and youth, and had over 40 wind, brass and percussion members ranging from the ages of 14 to 25. This year NZYSW is under the leadership of Owen Clarke, who was previously the musical director of the Royal New Zealand Navy Band. Please see for more details.


nzysw informal for articleA Review of the 2014-15 Season – by Lisa McNab

NZYSW started as a plan of Andrew Stopps (NZCBA President and conductor) and Laura Brown (NZYSW Band Manager) to bring the best of the NZ’s youth “bandies” together to play challenging and exciting music, and to showcase the very best of NZ in one group.

The band met initially at the NZCBA festival in Auckland in June 2014, and after a short rehearsal time put together James Curnow’s Canticle of Creatures, which they performed after the Navy Band at the festival performance evening.

Five months later, they met at St Cuthbert’s College in Auckland for two days of intense sectional and group rehearsals, and started really building on the skills and friendships made a few months earlier. Many of the non-Aucklanders were billeted with other local players in the band. After the workshops, one player said “This is so cool. These are totally my kind of people. I’ve made so many new friends and contacts and the music is really cool. I can’t wait till we meet again.”

In January 2015, NZYSW met for a three-day workshop in Wellington at Scots College. Group and sectional rehearsals were again taken both by older players in the band and by members of the Air Force Band. There was a singing workshop with Gian Carlo Luci which put many rather out of their comfort zones, but it was a great team-building exercise (with plenty of laughs) and resulted in a sweet sound to use as an introduction to Eric Whitacre’s Sleep. Day Two featured a BBQ and ice creams, and Day Three was based in the city with a morning of busking (the flute and oboe group earned the most), an afternoon rehearsal, and the first formal evening concert was performed to a small but appreciative audience.

NZYSW Article - flutesIn April the band traveled to Hawke’s Bay for an ANZAC celebration and performance at Lindisfarne College in their beautiful performing arts centre. For the first time the band all stayed together at the same venue (thanks Amici Motel) and besides making more amazing music everybody enjoyed catching up again with each other. We discovered some great young BBQ’ers in the group as we cooked in the evening darkness. Ten pin bowling showed up some of the band’s “other skills” and, well, let’s say some of the band aren’t so sporty and some are pretty sharp!! The weekend was completed with a performance combined in parts with Concorde Symphonic Band from Lindisfarne College and Hastings Girls High School.

In July, the band again met in the Wellington region, this time in Silverstream at St Patrick’s College. Once again the band stayed together and was able to utilise the awesome St Pat’s Hostel. It was great to have the use of their social areas with Pool and Mafia proving very popular. A highlight of the weekend was a workshop combined with the NZ conducting conference with very special guest Dr Bruce Pearson from America. Dr Pearson, the writer and creator of the popular Standard of Excellence band books, was a great hit with everybody both at the conference and with the band. What a lovely, inspiring, generous and knowledgeable gentleman. We were fed by the St Pat’s College Food and Nutrition students testing their catering skills with cafe-style coffees all round, and beautifully prepared home-made (and healthy) cooked lunches and baked goods.
An excited group of band members with a whole new family of bandies met for the final 2015 chapter at the NZCBA National Festival in Rotorua. Although most of the band had to play for their respective community, university or school bands, they also met as a group both afternoons for rehearsals, and performed at the final awards evening on the Saturday night to a full auditorium of musicians of all ages from all over NZ, and an international audience on the Brassbanned live-stream.

NZYSW has united young musicians from Northland to Invercargill and everywhere in between, providing players with the opportunity to play and perform exciting new music, to step forward and mentor younger players plus build friendships and networks for their musical careers or adventures in the future. Most importantly NZYSW has launched a platform to play and showcase high-class Concert Band music in NZ and encourage youth players to continue in music and belong to a great music community that will support them throughout their musical lives.


NZYSW Manager
NZYSW Manager

The New Zealand Youth Symphonic Winds – Breathing new life into an old initiative – By Rangimakehu Hall

The 2014 New Zealand Concert Band Association Festival saw the debut performance of a new and exciting group, the New Zealand Youth Symphonic Winds. With players only meeting each other the day before, the band managed to pull off a stellar performance of James Curnow’s Canticle of the Creatures under the careful direction of Andrew Stopps.

The new year and new season sees exciting new things on the horizon for the band. A new management team brings a wealth of experience and flair. The band waited in anticipation at the NZCBA 2015 festival prize giving ceremony for the announcement of the new team of musical directors. We welcomed Owen Clarke, a renown conductor of the highest quality, to the NZYSW team in the position of Musical Director. The Associate Musical Director mantle is taken up by Helen Renaud, a talented conductor and educator. In the Assistant Conductor’s role is Alex Eichelbaum, a student currently studying music at The University of Auckland. This team was completed with the appointment of a new Band Manager. Rangimakehu Hall is passionate about young people and music. He was recently elected to the NZCBA Executive Committee and will study a degree in Performance French Horn in the new year.

With this new team at the helm, the band looks set for greatness in the coming year. The band will meet four times throughout the year starting with a workshop series in Auckland in January 2016. A South Island workshop series and tour has been planned for the middle of the year and the band will make its annual appearance at the NZCBA Festival in Gisborne in August.

A Word from the Musical Director

I am excited to be appointed the Music Director of the New Zealand Youth Symphonic Winds for 2016. Ever since I played trombone in a combined concert in Christchurch, 1990, with the National Youth Concert Band, National Youth Orchestra and National Youth Choir I have been hoping there would be a rebuilding of a NZ Youth Concert Band. The last couple of years has seen this occur with the inspiration and motivation of a number of key people.

I am delighted to take up the mantle and enthusiastic about the potential of the ensemble. We will play challenging and interesting repertoire to showcase some of the amazing music being written for Wind Ensemble today, as well as playing some old favourites and classic tunes an audience will love!

This ensemble is important for the future health of wind, reed, brass and percussion in New Zealand and I feel privileged to be able to contribute to this wellbeing. Bring it on!

– Owen Clarke


Musical Director Biographies

Owen ClarkeOwen Clarke

Owen is known as a conductor, clinician, and adjudicator at all levels, in New Zealand and beyond, particularly for his passion for youth music. His Bachelor of Music in trombone performance led him to play with all the professional orchestras in New Zealand, as well as many other ensembles. Owen has developed his conducting in the USA, Europe and in New Zealand and was recently awarded his FRSM in conducting.

For the past 16 years he has been the Director of Music for the Royal NZ Air Force Band, then the Royal NZ Navy Band, developing their current excellent reputation. Highlights include performing at the 100th anniversary ANZAC services in Gallipoli, establishing a military band in East Timor, and producing three albums with the RNZAF and RNZN bands.

Since moving to Brisbane, Owen has been engaged as an adjudicator, conductor and educator, working with choirs, the champion brass band Brisbane Excelsior, and Queensland Youth Band. In October, he puts down his baton to represent New Zealand in the World Duathlon Championships in Adelaide.


Helen Renaud PhotoHelen Renaud

Christchurch bassoonist, saxophonist and conductor Helen Renaud is currently the HoD of Music at Burnside High School in Christchurch. Her studies of bassoon and music history led her to a Masters in Music from the University of Melbourne, where she focused on conducting.

Her conducting skills have further developed as the conductor of the Burnside High School Orchestra, Symphonic Band and Junior Concert Band. She is currently studying part time for her Doctorate in Musical Arts, focusing on rehearsal techniques for high school and youth ensembles.

Helen has recently been appointed to the roles of Conductor of the University of Canterbury – Christchurch Youth Orchestra, as well as Associate Musical Director of the New Zealand Youth Symphonic Winds.


Alex EichelbaumAlexander Eichelbaum

Alexander is actively involved as a conductor, director and performer with a wide range of groups, including Auckland Youth and Symphony Orchestras, Stellar Singers, Laudamus, University of Auckland Concert Band and Marist College Orchestra, and has assisted as conductor and concertmaster for the NZ Youth Symphonic Winds since its inception in 2014.

His work on clarinet and saxophone has been recognised through critically-acclaimed concerts, as well as a Lilburn Trust Performance Award in 2013 and the Annual Adjudicators’ Award for his solo and ensemble performances in the 2015 NZCBA Festival. He is currently completing studies in Classical Performance Clarinet at the University of Auckland.

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