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22 November 2016 / 10 Questions
After living in Melbourne for 30 years, Anthony Grigg returned to New Zealand earlier this year to settle in Wellington and has recently joined the NZ String Quartet family as a volunteer. Anthony has had a long career in tertiary education and also a lifetime’s interest and involvement in the performing arts. We asked him to tell us a little about his background in the arts and what prompted him to volunteer for our organisation...
1. Where does your interest in the arts stem from?
I grew up in a family where music seems to have been in the genes. My paternal great-great grandfather and great-grandfather were church organists and small time composers of songs and hymn tunes, my grandfather, father, aunt and uncle were all amateur pianists and, as good Baptists, we all knew how to sing. My mother was also musical with a good natural ear, so I grew up in a household where music was part of my every day. I used to pick out tunes on the piano as a young child and started piano lessons when I was nine. Later, as a teenager, I learned to play the pipe organ and was a church organist for many years as well as a member of both church and civic choirs in Dunedin, Palmerston North and Wellington. I also had an interest in opera and performance from the age of 11 when I was cast as one of the urchins in Act 2 of Puccini’s ‘La Boheme’ with the NZ Opera Company on one of its visits to Dunedin in 1963 - a major experience for an impressionable boy and I can still smell the grease paint backstage after all these years.
2. Did you consider a professional career in the arts?
I doubt I ever had the talent to make a career as a professional musician. And I did not practise diligently enough as a lad!! There were also family expectations about pursuing something in the professions or public service, so when I went to Otago University I studied History and kept my music as my main hobby. Do I regret this in retrospect? Not really. I think I was realistic about my musical and artistic abilities and I also enjoyed studying history.
3. You've worked for 40 or so years in tertiary education in New Zealand and Australia. What roles did you have during that time?
I aspired to be an academic historian and for a short while had tutoring and lecturing roles at Otago and Massey universities. But when I decided to move to Melbourne in the mid-1980s, partly because it had a much more vibrant arts scene than did New Zealand at that time, I moved into university administration and climbed the ladder to become Registrar of three different institutions before retiring. The last of these was with the Victorian College of the Arts, an environment where I was very much able to bring together my interests in education, training and the performing arts.
4. When did you first become interested in chamber music?
My real interest and involvement in chamber music emerged while I was living in Palmerston North and Wellington in the early 1980s. At that time I came to appreciate the musical complexity of both the genre’s composition and its performance. I regard it as perhaps the most intellectually challenging of the many different musical forms but one which is extremely rewarding when heard performed well at the highest level.
5. When did you start volunteering in the arts?
While living in Palmerston North in the early 1980s I had an opportunity to join the Manawatu Committee of the then Music Federation of New Zealand and acted for one year as its representative on the Music Federation’s national executive. This was a great learning experience for me and provided me with some insights into arts management. At a later stage in my professional career, I decided to study for a degree of Master in Arts Management. As part of that course, I undertook a minor research thesis on volunteering in the arts, using two different art forms and companies as case studies. This revealed to me both the passionate desire many people have to give their services voluntarily while at the same time the complexities of managing volunteers effectively and appropriately within a structured professional organisation.
6. What have been your subsequent volunteering roles?
At the point of leaving full-time employment, I was asked to join both the Board of Chamber Music Australia, responsible for the Melbourne International and Asia-Pacific Chamber Music Competitions, and the Victorian Committee of Musica Viva (Australia’s equivalent of Chamber Music NZ). I also provided administrative support to a professional trio (clarinet, cello and piano) called Ensemble Liaison and became involved with the Australian National Academy of Music as a member of a syndicate where we pledged funds to provide living expenses support to a very highly talented musician each year.
7. What have you enjoyed about volunteering?
All of these roles have been rewarding in their different ways. They have enabled me to engage with artists in a positive manner, to appreciate the challenges of funding in the arts, and to support passionate young people to pursue their musical educational journey. It is a great means of being a little bit closer to and feeling connected with the artistic community.
8. What would you say was the best volunteer experience you've had?
It is difficult to single out only one experience, but I think being involved with the CMA international chamber music competitions, which aim to encourage young chamber music trios and quartets at the early stages of their careers, provided lots of logistical challenges but much musical excitement and camaraderie. I also loved being involved with the students at ANAM, listening to their amazing performances, hearing them develop and grow and sharing their passion for what they were trying to achieve individually and collectively.
9. Why did you decide to leave Melbourne and return to Wellington?
Once a New Zealander, always a New Zealander - the love and call of the NZ landscape to my inner being; friends and family; a smaller, more intimate and manageable but culturally alive city. I have always loved Wellington and what it has to offer.
10. Finally, how did you come to volunteer with the New Zealand String Quartet?
After being back here a few months I asked the then Director of the NZ School of Music, Euan Murdoch, what opportunities he thought might exist for someone with my skills and background. Within an hour I had a meeting arranged with Christine Argyle and I now find myself assisting behind the scenes an extraordinarily talented group of musicians. So far I have done some website content review, prepared a schedule of possible funding agencies, collated audience survey results, edited Q-Notes and written a programme note - a varied range of small tasks but all interesting. I can recommend it!!
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