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10 Questions with Marcus Norman

Our new General Manager talks about his musical beginnings, living in the UK and his journey to the NZSQ, and of course his love of coffee.

Photo credit: Kate Walker

1. Working for the NZSQ you must love music, so what’s your musical background?

Music has always been a huge part of my life, from singing in the car on family road trips growing up, then piano duets with Grandma as a teenager, to intensive conservatoire studies in the UK. I couldn’t imagine a world without music and feel incredibly lucky to be working in a field that I love. Although I haven’t played professionally for some time now, I still enjoy dusting off my clarinet every now and again for a surprise birthday video, or singing in choirs for the sheer enjoyment.

2. What was your first experience with chamber music?

Two memories stand out for me, the first as a wide-eyed primary school student who was entranced by a chamber group from the Christchurch Symphony Orchestra showcasing the colours and textures of instrumental music. The second at high school, as a member of a group competing in the annual secondary schools competition – I think I loved the social element as much as the music-making at that age.

3. You mentioned your conservatoire studies, what prompted you to move to the UK?

When I finished my studies at the NZSM and University of Canterbury I was keen to take my music performance to the next level, and a mentor of mine suggested the UK conservatoire scene as a brilliant next step for Masters study. I also have family over in the UK, so it was a perfect excuse to combine further studies and explore my British heritage while meeting the other side of my family! Not to mention the fabulous travel opportunities across Europe.

4. How did you come to arts management? What’s been your pathway to working with the New Zealand String Quartet?

Shortly after my studies in Manchester my love for arts management took over – I was always more intrigued by the process of putting on a performance, and loved the thrill of seeing a project come to life behind the scenes. Since working in arts management I’ve grown to appreciate even more the transformative power and potential that live music has. Before joining the NZSQ, I collaborated with an amazing array of artists, conductors, producers, and young people in project management roles with Opera North and Southbank Sinfonia – and eight years later I’m excited to return home to NZ and join the NZSQ family.

5. What were some musical highlights during your time in the UK?

Possibly one of the most powerful musical moments of my life was being a part of an immersive overnight 12-hour performance of Jesus’ Blood Never Failed Me Yet – a collaborative project with people experiencing homelessness, Academy of St Martin in the Fields, and Southbank Sinfonia. The raw emotion of the music, combined with the stories of everyone on stage still sends shivers down my spine.

6. And string music? Do you have a favourite string quartet?

This is a tough question, as there’s so much great music out there for the string quartet. I have a few: my all time favourite is Ravel’s String Quartet in F for its unapologetic romance and rich colours. I’ve recently come across the brilliant music of American composer, Jessie Montgomery (particularly a piece called Starburst) and the diverse breadth of string quartet music by NZ composers – it’s always exciting to discover more.

7. What are you most excited about for NZSQ in 2021?

A highlight of the year is undoubtedly going to be our National Tour in August and September. The Quartet will play for the breadth and depth of New Zealand, and I’m looking forward to getting to know the audiences and communities who come and support the Quartet. I’m also looking forward to working with our inspirational artistic partners and devising new projects and experiences for our supports and audiences to enjoy.

8. What are your favourite things to do when you’re not with the NZSQ?

Besides listening to music, I love the outdoors - going for walks and hikes, searching for the next great coffee spot. I’m a keen gardener and am always up for a project of some sort – I’ve always wanted to try my hand at furniture making…

9. And what are you most looking forward to about Wellington life?

Returning to Wellington I’m looking forward to coming back to a place where you can find a good cup of coffee on every street. The rich array of arts and cultural events on offer, and the energy of the city – there’s a real buzz and vibrancy about Wellington all in the stunning setting of the harbour framed by the native bush.

10. You’re really gunning for that coffee! What’s your order?

We Kiwis did invent the flat white, and there’s nothing better (but occasionally I might have a decaf – scandalous!).

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