Australia takes note of gifted pianist
"In New Zealand there are so many wideranging styles and ideas, so much original thought goes on here."
A Whanganui pianist has been chosen to attend a prestigious music school in Australia.
Liam Wooding will head to Melbourne next month to take part in the Australian National Academy of Music’s profess i onal performance programme.
He’s one of only four pianists chosen to take part and the only New Zealander in this year’s intake.
While he may be heading away to the premiere music institution in Australia, in his mind Wooding’s f eet are planted firmly on New Zealand ground.
“I’ve always thought of myself as living in New Zealand and contributing to our profession.”
His forte is classical music, and while he respects the masters like Mozart, he has a special affection for modern Kiwi c omposers, s uch as Whanganui’s own Douglas Lilburn and Wellington’s John Psathas.
“In New Zealand there are so many wide-ranging styles and ideas, so much original thought goes on here.
“It’s not inhibited by tradition so much . . . so all sorts come out.”
He would like to see Kiwi music promoted and preserved for future generations.
“I believe it’s important for our cultural preservation.”
“Even if people think it’s not as good as Mozart, it’s more important that it gets given a chance.
“If we don’t, then it will be lost.”
While his affection is for New Zealand music, he’s stoked to have this opportunity in Australia to grow as a musician.
“It’s the direction I want to head in, the specific things that they do.”
The school teaches piano in a variety of different contexts, including chamber music, practising solo performances and experimental music. The course will take a minimum of one year, and will involve performing throughout Australia and at least one performance in China.
“I like to try new things. I’m curious . . . I think that’s what it’s about.”
At Westmere School, Wooding was encouraged to try different musical types and became involved in the school c hoir. At Wanganui High School, he took part in a pretertiary programme in Wellington for aspiring young musicians.
At the programme, he saw musicians from around New Zealand and felt like a “country bumpkin” from Whanganui. But he soon gained his confidence.
There he met the late Judith Clark. “She was well known to be a dragon, but she instilled a sense that what you do needs to be respected to the highest degree.”
He went on to complete his Bachelor of Music degree at Auckland University and is an observer pianist at the Wanganui New Zealand Opera School at Collegiate School.
His performances have been called “astounding” by reviewer Peter Mechen. The Australian academy will simply be the next challenge.
Before he leaves, he will perform with Deborah Wai Kapohe and Ingrid Culliford on January 29 in a fundraiser for the Sarjeant Gallery.
KIWI CHORDS: Liam Wooding might be heading across the Ditch, but the Whanganui pianist wants to see New Zealand music succeed. PHOTO/NATALIE SIXTUS