History of the Nelson Symphony Orchestra

Originally known as the Nelson School of Music Orchestra

The Nelson Symphony Orchestra, originally known as the Nelson School of Music Orchestra, was formed in 1966.

At its first highly acclaimed concert in May of that year, it consisted of 30 players under the baton of Frank Clayton Oxley, a renowned musician newly arrived from England. In those early years, the music was generally written out laboriously by hand into simpler arrangements to cater for the incomplete sections of the orchestra and the playing standards at that time.

In the early years, the NSO toured to Takaka (where they were stranded overnight by rising flood waters) as well as holding concerts in Richmond and Motueka. In addition to the standard symphonic fare, over the years the NSO has featured many concerts specifically for children, concerto concerts for young soloists (Solo Spotlight) as well as collaborations with the Nelson Civic Choir and other local choirs.

Name changed to Nelson Symphony Orchestra

In 1995, the orchestra’s name was changed to the Nelson Symphony Orchestra and it became an independent Incorporated Society, although still with a strong affiliation to the Nelson School of Music.

As new players have moved into the region and joined the orchestra, the NSO has grown into a true symphonic orchestra with a full complement of instruments in every section and playing an extensive and varied repertoire to an acclaimed standard.

The NSO currently attracts regular players from as far afield as Blenheim and the West Coast as well as bringing in players from other parts of NZ to fill specific gaps in sections. It is an important part of Nelson’s cultural life and continues to delight audiences with quality performances of classical repertoire featuring highly regarded professional conductors and soloists from around the country.