Meet the Orchestra

Nigel E Weeks, QSM


Nigel E Weeks originates from Wales. He has served as Musical Director of the Continental Airlines Auckland Brass, now the Dalewool Brass Band. In 2014 he was appointed 'Chief Adjudicator' for the Australian Brass Band Championships and directed the 2014 National Band of New Zealand on its sucessful tour of China and South Korea. In 2017 he was appointed Musical Director of the NZ National Brass Band and directed the band to a second place in the prestigious World Championships.

Nigel has worked as Director of Music at Manurewa High School, Kings College and Macleans College Auckland, winning numerous national awards and accolades for his performance groups. He is currently Head of Music at Nayland College and enjoys working with the local community music groups who aspire to achieve excellence. In 2019 Nigel was awarded the Kiwibank 'Local Hero' award and in June gained a Queens Service Medal for his services to music.

John Thompson, Concert Master NSOM

John Thomson

Concert Master

John Thomson began playing with the Nelson Symphony Orchestra in February 2009, having returned to New Zealand after 25 years in the USA, where he gained his doctoral degree in violin performance and taught violin at universities. He has performed with numerous orchestras in the USA, and appeared as soloist and recitalist throughout North America, Latin America, Asia and Europe and before dignitaries including Queen Elizabeth II and former President George Bush.

Critics have praised him as a “stellar soloist” with “brilliant technique and appealing cantabile” and have called his playing a “rare treat.” Other press reviews state: “The audience was in awe of Thomson’s performance”, “Thomson’s performance of Wieniawski was a highlight of the season”, and mentioned “the highest classical style.” Italian violinist Franco Gulli wrote to John after a performance “I have admired your remarkable facility in performing the music of Paganini.” After a recent recital in Seoul, Korea, a reviewer wrote: “his playing was full of great sonority combined with a tender sweetness that tugged at the audience’s heart.” John has published his arrangement of some music of the romantic Norwegian violin virtuoso, Ole Bull and has written articles on the music of Tartini, Viotti and Joachim. John is also considered to be an expert on Gypsy violin music.

John has enjoyed a variety of musical experiences, including the standard classical repertoire, but also frequently accompanying many celebrities such as Frank Sinatra, Paul McCartney, and Bernadette Peters, and acting the part of musical characters in Hollywood movies. In addition to his performances on violin, he plays baroque violin, viola d'amore, and viola. In 2005, he became the first to record on the violotta, an unusual German instrument developed around 1880. He is featured on four compact disc recordings available through Albany Records and AK Coburg and may be seen in a clip playing violotta in the Andromeda-Saal, Schloss Ehrenburg, Coburg, Germany.

Juliette Ayre

Photo Credit: Ben Woods

Juliet Ayre

Rehearsal Leader

Juliet Ayre grew up in Nelson, studying violin through the Nelson School of Music, first playing with the Nelson Symphony in 1997 at the age of 12. Following an invaluable foundation in violin playing and performance given by her teacher, Martin Prokopetz and the Nelson School of Music, Juliet moved to Christchurch to study with Stephen Larsen for four years, before commencing a further four years of study with Polish violinist; Jan Tawroszewicz. She has recieved masterclasses from Václav Remeš and Vlastimil Holek of The Pražák Quartet, Ellen Jewett, Jonas Båtstrand, Miguel Negri, and Charmian Gadd, and taken lessons from Vesa-Matti Leppänen (concertmaster of the NZSO). Returning to Nelson in 2009, Juliet enjoys teaching violin, coaching and playing as much chamber music as she possibly can, and most recently, is excited to return to the Nelson Symphony.

Lissa Cowie principal cellist NSO

Lissa Cowie

Principal Cellist

Lissa was born in Scotland and emigrated to New Zealand at the age of 12. She has a Bachelor of Music with First Class Honours from Auckland University, a Postgraduate Performance Diploma from The Royal Academy of Music in London and a LRAM Teaching Diploma.

She has worked with various orchestras including the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra, City of London Sinfonia, National Symphony Orchestra of Scotland, Scottish Festival Orchestra and Opera della Luna. She was a member of the Elgin Piano Trio, formed at the Royal Academy in 1997. They gave many concerts in the UK at venues including St-Martin-in-the-Fields and St John’s Smith Square as well as performing the Beethoven Triple concerto in 2002. They were awarded a full scholarship to attend the Banff Centre for the Arts, Canada, as trio in residence for one month. Lissa also performed in string quartets, giving concerts in England, the Isle of Mann, Belgium and castles in Scotland. They also provided background music at Clarence House (then the Queen Mother’s residence), at various events such as London Fashion Week and many weddings. Lissa taught cello and chamber music at the Junior Department of Royal Scottish Conservatoire and Jordanhill School.

Lissa now enjoys being part of the Top of the South’s vibrant music scene, including playing with the Nelson Symphony Orchestra, Goya Ensemble and duo partnerships with Mark Secker and Blenheim pianist Marsha Stringer. She teaches cello privately, at various schools in Nelson and through NCMA.