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Judith Clark Memorial Fellowships support musicians to up the tempo overseas

01 November 2022 | news

From left, scholarship recipients Larissa Kent, Cecile McNeill and David Paligora

Three outstanding musicians have received a Judith Clark Memorial Fellowship to help them travel overseas to audition for internationally renowned postgraduate courses.

Larissa Kent (pictured left), aged 25, is a lyric soprano who wants to undertake a Master of Music in Voice Performance at a United Kingdom or United States conservatorium.  

She will be completing online auditions for the UK’s Royal Academy of Music, Royal College of Music, Guildhall School of Music, Royal Northern College of Music and Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, and if successful in the electronic first round of auditions will fly to the US for in-person auditions at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music and Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia.

“Music continues to enrich my life and I have such a passion for this art form that I wish to pursue it to the highest possible level,” says Larissa.

She graduated from Waipapa Taumata Rau, University of Auckland this year with a Bachelor of Music with First-Class Honours, having previously completed a Bachelor of Music in Classical Voice Performance at the university.

Her competition successes include receiving third place in the Becroft Aria Competition in 2021. She has performed around New Zealand as a soloist in concerts with piano and orchestra, as well as being involved in many choirs and ensembles.

Larissa is a past student of the New Zealand Opera School and a member of the New Zealand Opera Chorus and Voices New Zealand. A particular highlight was being invited to perform in Auckland in 2021 as a guest artist for An Audience with Jonathan Lemalu.

Violist Cecile McNeill (pictured centre), aged 21, aims to travel to the US for an audition tour with the goal of pursuing a Master of Music.

She has previously auditioned for and been accepted by the Juilliard School in New York, the Cleveland Institute of Music, the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston and the University of Southern California Thornton School of Music in Los Angeles.

“But despite receiving various scholarships for financial aid, the cost of attending any of these schools was overwhelming and I made the extremely difficult decision not to do so,” says Cecile.

She now hopes to audition again – first electronically and if successful in person.

"As someone who is aiming towards a career in music, I believe continuing my education will give me the tools to achieve this career, as with more knowledge comes a greater ability to be an empathetic and successful musician,” says Cecile. 

While studying for a master’s, Cecile plans to work on developing her personal musical identity as well as perform with different orchestras, ensembles and musicians. 

She is currently at Waipapa Taumata Rau, University of Auckland finishing a Bachelor of Music with Honours, having previously completed a Bachelor of Music at the university specialising in classical creative practice.

Cecile has played with the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra and the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra’s National Youth Orchestra. She has taken part in the New Zealand String Quartet’s Adam Summer School for Chamber Music since 2019.  

David Paligora (pictured right), aged 23, is auditioning electronically for the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston, the Manhattan School of Music and the Northwestern Bienen School of Music in Illinois, followed by in-person auditions if he is successful.

All three institutions provide unique approaches to David’s area of interest, the rich history and culture of brass playing. 

“I plan to study the bass trombone’s unique relationship with sanctity, power, domination and masculinity in the western musical canon,” he says. 

David is currently at Te Herenga Waka – Victoria University of Wellington’s New Zealand School of Music – Te Kōkī studying for a Bachelor of Music with Honours majoring in classical performance, having previously completed a Bachelor of Science in Physics with First-Class Honours and conjoint Bachelor of Music and Bachelor of Science at Waipapa Taumata Rau, University of Auckland. 

The New Zealand Symphony Orchestra invited him to be a guest principal player in 2020 and he is now a casual musician with the orchestra. He has been principal bass trombone in its National Youth Orchestra since 2018. Adding to his professional experience are performances with the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra, Orchestra Wellington and the Royal New Zealand Navy Band.  

The Judith Clark Memorial Fund was set up in Judith’s name after her death in 2014, in recognition of her gratitude for the scholarships she received as a young student enabling her to further her studies as a pianist overseas.  

The fund is managed by the Nikau Foundation and the Judith Clark Memorial Fellowship is administered by Universities New Zealand – Te Pōkai Tara along with more than 35 other fellowships and scholarships. 

There are two application rounds. The first is to support the cost of attending auditions in the November to February period, with applications open each year on 15 April and closed on 15 August. The second round is to support attending a summer school or academy in the May to August period, with applications open on 15 October and closed on 15 February the following year. 

Further details are on the scholarship’s page on the Universities New Zealand website.