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Dream comes true for Gisborne musician

A young Gisborne musician’s dream of completing her studies in Europe has come true thanks to winning a prestigious grant.

Anna Cooper, 23, has won the 2017 Giese Flute Grant, established in memory of former New Zealand Symphony Orchestra Principal Flute, Richard Giese. The $1500 grant is awarded each year to a promising young flute player.

Cooper, who teaches flute in Auckland, has an honours degree in music from the University of Auckland and was a member of the NZSO National Youth Orchestra in 2014 and 2016. She will use the $1500 award to help fund a Masters in Performance Flute in Europe next year.

It was almost a fluke that Cooper started playing the flute. She fell in love with the instrument as child “because it was shiny” but it took a random offer to reel her in.

“I was 12 and someone was offering musical instruments and lessons for a year for $10! I immediately fell in love with the flute and my plan to become a doctor went out the window.”

Cooper attended Gisborne Girls High School and had many formative musical experiences growing up on the East Coast. She was a semi-finalist in the Gisborne International Music Competition in 2015 and 2016 and was Winner of the Woodwind Prize at the same competition in 2016.

This year she is a member of the prestigious NZSO Fellowship programme and in March she had the distinction of becoming the first ever individual NZSO Fellowship Student to play with the orchestra at the final NZSO Modern Maori Quartet concert in Gisborne.

Cooper says it was a case of being in the right place at the right time. “Bridget Douglas, the NZSO Section Principal Flute, was double booked for the Gisborne concert,” she says. “So, she asked me if I could step in as her replacement on second flute.”

Cooper says it was a privilege to play with the NZSO, “and even more special that the concert happened in my hometown”.

But the event wasn’t all plain sailing. “The concert was really a case of baptism by fire, as I had not actually rehearsed with the Orchestra! However, it was invaluable to have the experience of sitting next to another flute player who is at the top of their game and trying to blend in with their sound.”

Cooper is one of eight NZSO Fellowship Programme musicians this year who have been given access to NZSO players, conductors, soloists and educators. This includes observing orchestra rehearsals and concerts, taking lessons from NZSO principals and visiting artists and learn about the NZSO’s administrative and production roles

“The Fellowship programme is excellent because it allows aspiring young musicians to be exposed to the highest levels of playing and hear for themselves what they need to do to get to the next step,” Cooper says.

It’s how she met Douglas, who had no hesitation in asking Cooper to step in for the final Gisborne concert.

“Anna impressed me the first time I heard her several years ago as a high school student in Gisborne. She showed a quiet determination to become a professional flutist which is not a standard career pathway when you're from a sleepy East Coast town,” says Douglas.

“When I had to find a replacement for the Gisborne concert, Anna immediately came to mind. I knew she would be more than up to the task of playing second flute. As a Gisborne girl, it was also an amazing opportunity for her to play in the NZSO in her home town.”

Cooper currently splits her time between teaching, the NZSO Fellowship Programme and an internship at the Auckland Philharmonic. She’d love to one day be a full-time NZSO musician.

This year’s other awards winners are Kenny Keppel, clarinet of Auckland; Noah Rudd, oboe of Auckland, Zoe Stehonuse-Burgess, flute of Auckland and Claudia Tarrant-Matthews, violin of Wellington.

The Alex Lindsay Award, administered by players of the NZSO, aims to support young musicians studying with the aim of pursuing an orchestral career. The Giese Flute Grant and Michael Monaghan Award are also administered by the trustees of the Alex Lindsay Award.

Douglas is also the chairperson of the Alex Lindsay Award trustees. “We had a large number of applicants this year, and all were of a high standard. These five fine young musicians have already made a big contribution to musical life in New Zealand and we're glad to be able to support them to continue their studies or buy instruments. We hope that we'll see them all back playing professionally in New Zealand one day."

Many previous recipients of the Alex Lindsay Award occupy positions in professional orchestras in New Zealand and overseas. 




For further information, please contact Bridget Douglas, ALA Chairperson, 027-475 7326, e-mail



The Alex Lindsay Award, which is a registered trust, was founded in memory of former New Zealand Symphony Orchestra Concertmaster, Alex Lindsay, who died in 1974. Since its inception in 1975, the Alex Lindsay Award has given out more than $200,000 in grants. Previous winners have included Wilma Smith, Donald Armstrong, Ashley Brown, Martin Riseley and Alexa Still.

For a list of previous recipients, along with other information about the Alex Lindsay Awards, visit the NZSO website.