Brent Stewart was appointed the choir’s Music Director in 2014. Stewart is a leading musical figure in New Zealand. He has worked all across New Zealand and overseas as a percussionist, pianist, teacher, and conductor. His programmes for the Orpheus are varied, exciting and dramatic.
Born and raised in Auckland, Stewart began his undergraduate studies at Auckland University majoring in classical percussion and conducting. In his third year of study, he moved to “the coolest little capital in the world” where he completed a Bachelor of Music with First Class Honours and a Post Graduate Diploma in Secondary Education through the New Zealand School of Music and Victoria University of Wellington respectively.
In demand as a percussionist, Stewart has undertaken freelance work with the Auckland Philharmonia, The Southern Sinfonia of New Zealand, and the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra. Other work includes twice travelling to Tokyo, Japan, to perform in a season of “The Phantom of the Opera” as Principal Percussion. Since 2005, he has worked with Orchestra Wellington (formally Vector Wellington Orchestra), and was appointed Sub-Principal Percussion in 2008. This position includes pit-work with the Royal New Zealand Ballet and the New Zealand National Opera Company.
Stewart continues to work closely with New Zealand composers and has premiered many new percussion works to critical acclaim. In 2007, he premiered Karlo Margetic’s Xylophone concerto accompanied by the Auckland Philharmonia. In the following year, Stewart recorded the same work with the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra.
“…Xylophone soloist Brent Stewart was centre stage from start to finish, reviving, if there was any need, the tradition of the virtuoso soloist battling with the much larger orchestra, though there were beguiling quiet moments such as the magical ending of the second movement…” (Lindis Taylor, Dominion Post, August 2008)
Also in demand as a pianist, Stewart has worked as an accompanist at the Gisborne International Music competition, and accompanied Yoshiko Tsuruta, the winner of the National Concerto Competition in Christchurch. He has played piano for several musicals including “42nd Street”, “Chicago”, “Back to the 80s”, “My Fair Lady”, “Bugsy Malone”, “Les Misérables”, “The Man of La Mancha”, “The Wizard of Oz”, and “West Side Story”. In 2013, Stewart was appointed as Principal Accompanist to the New Zealand Secondary Students’ Choir and recently travelled with them to Singapore and Malaysia. In June this year, he will play piano with the Christchurch City Choir in their performance of Orff’s “Carmina Burana” (reduced version for two pianos, percussion, soloists, choir).
“…Throughout the accompanied items Brent Stewart, the choir’s principal accompanist, was lively, sympathetic and a thoroughly accomplished performer…” (Rosemary Collier, Middle-C, April 2014)
Brent Stewart has been Head of Music at Wellington East Girls’ College for the last 6 years. In 2012, he led a school choir, Cantala, on an international tour through Singapore, London, Paris, and Vienna. In Vienna, Cantala came 1st equal in the Summa Cum Laude Youth International Music Festival. Cantala travelled to China alongside the Wellington College Chorale. Wellington East Girls’ College now sends the most students from any school, almost 500, in NZ to The Big Sing festival each year. Stewart also conducts an auditioned secondary school orchestra with members combined from Rongotai College, Wellington Girls’ College, Wellington College, and his own school, Wellington East Girls’ College.
“…Cantala’s droll song, ‘Bitte Betti, was enacted with refinement and restraint but through that achieved a performance that both revealed some fine individual voices and excellent singing, not to mention the skilful direction of Brent Stewart.” (Lindis Taylor, Middle-C, August 2012)
Brent Stewart was appointed Music Director of the Hutt Valley Orchestra in 2007. A concert that included Rachmaninoff’s 3rd Piano Concerto being paired with Mascagni’s one act opera, “Cavalleria rusticana”, illustrated his eclectic and adventurous programming. With the Hutt Valley Orchestra, Stewart has led several symphonic workshops where people from across New Zealand have come together to tackle major repertoire with sectional tutelage from members of the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra. Works in this context have included Shostakovich’s 5th Symphony, Beethoven’s 9th Symphony, Holst’s ‘The Planets’, and Mahler’s 1st Symphony. Stewart has also conducted programmes with the Kapiti Concert Orchestra, Wellington Chamber Orchestra, has conducted the NZSO in two workshops. In 2012 he was appointed to a 2-year internship as Assistant Conductor of Orchestra Wellington alongside Music Director, Marc Taddei.