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Adam Summer School Alumni Spotlight: Charles Brooks

The Adam Summer School for Chamber Music, a prestigious event for young string and piano players, is about to turn 30! Taking place in Nelson each February, the Adam Summer School brings together up to 30 talented young musicians and organizes them into brand-new chamber ensembles for eight days of intensive training.

To celebrate the 30th School taking place this February, we're going back to the very beginning - The Class of 1995! A little while ago we sat down with James Donaldson, and now we've sat down with Charles Brooks, an alumni from the very first Adam Summer School for Chamber Music (then called the Nelson Chamber Music School) to see what he's up to now.


Alumni Spotlight: Class of 1995. Charles Brooks, Photographer and Cellist.

Charles Brooks

Years Attended: 1995 & 1999

Instrument:  Cello

Charles Brooks is a cellist and alumni from the first ever Adam Summer School. The past few years have see him travel all around the world, holding Principal Cello positions in several different orchestra's. He's now back on home soil (most of the time) as a full-time photographer.

1. Describe your Summer School experience in three words.

Engaging. Exciting. Informing.

2. How did you find out about the Summer School and what motivated you to apply?

This is a bit hazy, but I believe I‘d had a masterclass with Rolf. He was always incredibly knowledgeable, and his enthusiasm was just magnetic.

Charles Brooks and his quartet from the very first Adam Summer School in 1995

3. What’s the most memorable moment from your time at the Adam Summer School?

Relaxing with the other students in the pool, watching Johnny Chang play the fastest trills I’d ever seen in his Shostakovich 8 quartet, and just getting to know friends and eventual colleagues from all around the country.

4. What repertoire did you play at your Finale Concerts?

Schubert: String Quartet No. 14 "Death and The Maiden"

5. Do you have any advice for current and future Adam Summer School Students?

Just enjoy your time with these world class teachers, and the wonderful friendships you’ll make along the way.

6. What have you been up to since Adam Summer School?

It’s hard to summarise 30 years, but here goes:

I played in a number of orchestras touring all around the world, everywhere from the concert halls of Paris, to the deserts of Western China, to the depths of Patagonia in Chile, with all kinds of wonderful artists from Lang Lang (many many times), to the world’s finest opera singers in the Sao Paulo Opera House.

Charles photographing Rolf's Goffriller cello

I have an Honours Degree in Cello and Voice from Victoria University of Wellington. I then completed a Masters in Cello at Griffith University in Australia. I have held Principal Cello positions in China, Chile and Brazil. In 2018 I retired from my professional cello career and have since embarked full-time into photography.

Through my series, Architecture in Music, I have spent the past few years photographing the insides of some of the world's finest musical instruments (including the four instruments of the NZSQ!). Using a Lumix G9ii camera and specially modified Storz endoscopy lenses, these instrumental interiors appear as vast concert halls or contemporary architecture.


Celebrate the 30th Adam Summer School by attending a Finale Concert on Sunday 18th February 2024. These concerts are your chance to see the next generation of music-makers in action.

Date: Sunday 18th February 2024

Time:  3pm & 7pm

Location:  Nelson Centre of Musical Arts, 48 Nile Street, Nelson

Tickets:  $5 - $25, book at

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