The New Zealand Secondary Schools Orchestral Course was instituted in the 1960s and has subsequently evolved into the course now known as the NZSSSO (the NZ Secondary Schools Symphony Orchestra). It is funded through a combination of course fees and a small annual grant from the Ministry of Education. Since 1985 the NZSSSO has been organised by the Christchurch Itinerant Teachers of Music – now the Forte Itinerant Music Service which is managed by Hagley College. It offers a valuable opportunity for some of New Zealand’s top secondary school orchestral musicians to represent their school, and receive the opportunity to experience playing in a full Symphony Orchestra. Students are selected by audition.

The NZSSSO course runs for six days, during which students participate in a variety of practical sessions – culminating in two public performances. Each year the standard reached has remained high, with full-scale orchestral works being performed. It is widely regarded as a significant training ground for young players aspiring to membership of the New Zealand Youth Orchestra and ultimately to a career as a professional musician.

Recent years have featured outstanding students as soloists:
2020 – Isabella Gregory (Flute); 2019 – Rachel Thomas (Marimba); 2018 – Isaac Shatford (Violin); 2017 – Mark Holdaway (Clarinet); 2016 – Geeny Moon (French Horn); 2015 – Matthais Balzat (Cello); 2014 – Han Sol Jung (Piano); 2013 – Andy Bell (Percussion); 2012  – Sam Jones (Saxophone); 2010 – Oswin family; 2009 – Alex Morton & Prang Rojanachotikul (French Horns); 2008 – Michael Bell (Double Bass/Composer); 2007  – A Quartet: Kate Oswin (Violin),Jane Macklan (Oboe), Sylvia Nissen (Cello), Alicia McNeill (Bassoon); 2005 – Jenny Cho (PIano); 2004 – Blair Sinclair (Trombone); 2003 – Takumi Motokawa (Percussion) & Christopher Bruerton; 2002 – Michelle Hsiao (Piano); 2001 – Ben Morrison (Violin), Yoomi Sim, Thomas Lee, Broderick Lin; 2000 – Sarah Buchan (Violin); 1999 – Yoon Jung Kim (Cello); 1998 – Chai-Nan Hung (Violin); 1997 Caroline Wu (Piano); 1996 – Mark Cookson (Clarinet); 1995 – Rachel Fuller (Piano); 1994 – Huy Nguyen Bui (Violin); 1993 – Jeremy Cullen (Piano/Composer); 1992 – Matthew Ross (Violin), Melissa Farrow, Hester Lees Jeffries (Recorder); 1991 – Carol Dodge (Piano); 1990 – Paula Jane Hamilton (Flute); 1989 – Bernie Mann (French Horn); 1988 – James Bush (Cello) & Simon Rogers; 1987 – Tony van Buren (Viola); 1986 – Eugene Albulescu (Piano); 1985 – Tim Emerson (Piano)

Apart from the undoubted musical benefits of the course, the social aspect is also significant. The contacts and friendships made here are often lasting and important for the aspiring musician’s journey ahead.

Nicky Fogden-Smith, Course Director
Georgina Rees-Stevenson, Systems Administrator