2020 Official Collaborative Pianists
Dr Sarah Watkins
Sarah’s lifelong love for accompanying and chamber music has led to an impressive career as a performer and recording artist. She is perhaps best known to New Zealand audiences as a founding member of NZTrio, one of this country’s most dynamic and indispensable music ensembles. After 16 years, Sarah left the group in June 2018 to actively pursue other musical collaborations and passions, which includes the mentoring and coaching of young New Zealand musicians.
In addition to NZTrio, she has been an official pianist for the Michael Hill International Violin Competition since its inception in 2001 and the Gisborne International Music Competition since 2008, and has performed as a freelance player in the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra, and the Auckland Chamber Orchestra.
Sarah has also appeared as concerto soloist with St. Matthew’s Chamber Orchestra, ACO, and the APO, and in 2014 recorded Chris Watson's "sing songs self" for solo piano and orchestra with the NZSO, a composition which was awarded the prestigious 2015 SOUNZ Contemporary Award.
Her numerous CD recordings with NZTrio and other artists have been widely praised by audiences and critics alike; ‘Sway’ (NZTrio, 2017) and ‘Gung-ho’ (2009, with NZSO prinicipal trombonist David Bremner) were both winners of the Vodafone NZ Music Award for best Classical album.
Sarah is a graduate of the University of Canterbury (NZ) and the Juilliard School in New York City, where she earned both Master of Music and Doctor of Musical Arts degrees in collaborative piano. While living in the US, Sarah worked as a staff pianist at Juilliard, Yale University, and the Aspen Music Festival. She also served as coordinator of the collaborative piano program at the Music Academy of the West in Santa Barbara, California, and spent several years on the music faculty of Purchase College, New York. During the period 2004-2009 NZTrio was ensemble in residence at the University of Auckland, where Sarah taught collaborative piano and chamber music.
Stephen De Pledge
New Zealand pianist Stephen De Pledge studied with Joan Havill at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama where he won the Beethoven, Romantic and Schubert prizes, and the Gold Medal in his final year, following a performance of Prokofiev’s 3rd concerto in the Barbican Hall. He subsequently spent two years as a Junior Fellow at the Royal College of Music, and studied in Paris with Yvonne Loriod.
After winning the NFMS Young Concert Artist Award he made his debuts in the Wigmore Hall, Queen Elizabeth Hall and St John’s Smith Square in London, and broadcast for BBC Radio 3 and BBC2 television. His concerto performances have included appearances with the Philharmonia, Bournemouth Symphony, New London, BBC Scottish Symphony and New Zealand Symphony Orchestras. His solo performances in recent seasons have taken him to Cologne, Paris and New York, as well as throughout New Zealand and Australia.
Stephen has given recitals with many musicians, including Dame Felicity Lott, Dame Evelyn Glennie, Viktoria Mullova, Raphael Wallfisch, Alan Hacker and Rivka Golani, and given chamber performances with the Berlin Philharmonic Wind Quintet, Chamber Domaine and the Scottish Ensemble. His extensive discography includes works by Bliss, Barber, Messiaen, Shostakovich, Brahms, Mussorgsky and Prokofiev.
He takes a particular interest in contemporary music and has worked with a great number of composers, making world premiere recordings for Arvo Pärt, Henryk Gorecki and Ned Rorem. The 1st piano concerto of Lyell Cresswell was written for him in 2012, and has been performed with four different orchestras and recorded both for Naxos and BBC Radio 3. In addition to his performing schedule Stephen has had a teaching position since 2010 in the piano department at the School of Music, University of Auckland.
South Korean born New Zealand pianist, Somi Kim has established herself as one of today's most highly regarded young pianists with a string of competition successes and extensive concert experience.
Somi is an Associate of the Royal Academy of Music. She graduated with an Advanced Diploma in Performance and Master of Arts with Distinction, receiving the HRH Princess Alice the Duchess of Gloucester’s Prize, a DipRAM and the Christian Carpenter Prize for the Best Recital. Somi is the 2017 winner of the Royal Over-Seas League Accompanist Prize, and has received the Gerald Moore Award for Accompanists, AESS Patricia Routledge National English Song Accompanist Prize, Mozart Singing Competition Accompanist Prize, Bromsgrove International Musicians Competition Accompanist Prize, Vivian Langrish Memorial Trust Prize, Thomas Art of Song Accompanist Prize, Major van Someron-Godfery Prize for Accompanists, WCOM Concordia Serena Nevill and Barthel Prizes and the 6th Pettman/Royal Over-Seas League Arts International Scholarship. Somi made her debut with Chamber Music New Zealand in 2015.
Sought after as a chamber musician, song accompanist and répétiteur, Somi is an artist for the Kirckman Concert Society, Park Lane Group, Concordia Foundation and is a Yeoman of the Worshipful Company of Musicians. Somi is a scholar on the Britten-Pears and Samling Artist Programmes, Georg Solti Accademia, and is a staff pianist at the International Holland Music Sessions, International Vocal Competition’s-Hertogenbosch and the New Zealand Opera School. Somi is the official pianist with the NZTrio - a piano trio that is recognised as a "national treasure" and as "New Zealand’s most indispensable ensemble".
In recital, Somi’s recent and future appearances include Het Concertgebouw, Slovak Philharmonic, Wigmore Hall, St. John’s Smith Square, Cadogan Hall, Bridgewater Hall and the Edinburgh Fringe, Ryedale, St Endellion and Oxford Lieder Festivals.
Somi has been an official collaborative pianist for the Gisborne International Music Competition since 2017.