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Adam Summer School Alumni Spotlight – Davina Shum

Updated: Oct 19, 2021

The Adam Summer School has provided string players and pianists from across New Zealand and beyond with the opportunity to learn from the very best. Up to 25 students are chosen each year to fully immerse themselves in intensive coaching and masterclasses, culminating in two finale concerts at the stunning Nelson Centre of Musical Arts.

In anticipation of the 28th annual Adam Summer School in 12-20 February 2022, we decided to catch up with a few of our alumni to see what they're up to now and how the Summer School has impacted their career. Click here to read our Q&A with fellow alumni: Ben Booker, Liam Wooding, and Arna Morton.


Davina Shum, cellist

Year Attended: 2008

Davina standing in front of a brick wall and mahogany doors, dressed in a leather jacket and blue polka dot skirt and holding her cello.
Adam Summer School alumna, Davina Shum

Auckland-born cellist Davina Shum studied at the University of Auckland and the Sydney Conservatorium of Music. Now based in London, United Kingdom, Davina was a member of the Southbank Sinfonia and performed in many acclaimed venues including the Royal Opera House, the Southbank Centre, and the Royal Albert Hall. Davina is currently the Online Editor of The Strad and also the creator and host of podcast, As It Comes: Life from a Musicians’ View, which explores the weird and wonderful lives of those who keep music-making alive.

Davina attended the Summer School in 2008 and performed the Beethoven String Quartet in F Minor, Op. 95 with Juliet Ayre (1st Violin), Julianne Song (2nd Violin), and Charlotte Fetherston (Viola). We recently caught up with Davina to reminisce about her Summer School experience and what she's up to now.

Who or what motivated you to apply for the Adam Summer School?

I’ve always been one to have a go and say ‘yes’ to new opportunities. I’d heard from many friends about the Adam Summer School, so I decided to apply, simple as that.

If the opportunity presents itself to meet new friends, play some great repertoire, learn from experienced players and watch inspiring performances right on your doorstep (i.e. an hour flight from Auckland without the need to travel to another country!) – that’s already plenty of reasons to go for it.

I was also keen to play string quartet repertoire as I’d never played any up until that point, which was at the start of my 4th year of university (limited numbers of viola players where I studied meant that they got snapped up quickly, so we did a lot of trio repertoire as a result).

How has the Adam Summer School shaped you to be the musician you are today?

It taught me how much you can learn about a single piece of repertoire if you are willing to invest the time and energy to do so. I remember my quartet worked on Beethoven's Op. 95, ‘Serioso’ – when you spend a week looking at every minute detail of the piece, you don’t forget it easily. Even now when I hear that piece, I still feel like I know it like the back of my hand. I've also made friends that week that I’m still close to now. It’s fascinating seeing the different career directions everyone has taken since then.

Black and white photo of Davina playing the cello
Davina performing at the Royal Albert Hall, London. Photo credit: Rob Low.

Tell us about your most memorable moment from the Adam Summer School.

I have a distinct memory of Gillian instructing us to warm up by rotating our bodies and flinging our arms from side to side. We were standing up, away from our instruments, in the sun. First, we moved slowly, but then Gillian got us to speed up quickly and soon we were whacking ourselves, arms flying everywhere, an oscillating quartet. At the time I thought it was kind of silly, but you can’t deny the feeling of blood rushing to your digits as a result. From then I started acknowledging the importance of warming up properly and the importance of being physically aware when approaching an instrument, though I now usually warm up in a way that takes up less space and is less likely to injure any innocent bystanders.

I also have great memories of wonderful food and sunshine during our breaks, as well as less memorable, hazier moments in the evenings.

What have you been up to since the Adam Summer School?

Davina dressed in a khaki button up shirt with her arms crossed, wearing black headphones and smiling at the camera. Radio microphone in front of her.
Davina at the BBC Broadcasting House

Quite a bit! That year I embarked on a fellowship with the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra, during which I got my introduction into the world of professional orchestral playing. I completed a Masters at Sydney Conservatorium of Music before heading over to London to join the Southbank Sinfonia in 2013. After that, I started a freelance performing, recording and teaching career in the UK, but somehow fell into the world of broadcasting and podcasting, becoming a BBC Radio 3 speech contributor in 2019 as well as starting up my own podcast about musicians’ lives called ‘As It Comes: Life from a musician’s point of view’.

I’m now the online editor for The Strad magazine – so while I’m not playing as much as I used to, I’m reading, writing and talking about string playing literally all day every day, the insights for which I wouldn’t have if I’d not had a performing career.

What inspires you?

Authenticity. It is very easy to tell when someone’s creative output reflects their genuine self, or if they are just doing something because they think they should.

What would you like to say to students who are on the fence about applying for the Adam Summer School?

Do it, it’s really fun.


Applications are now open for the 2022 Adam Summer School!

Presented by the New Zealand String Quartet and generously sponsored by the Adam Foundation, Adam Summer School provides the opportunity for up to 25 talented young string players and pianists to commit themselves to eight days of intense chamber music-making under the guidance of the New Zealand String Quartet and guest pianist-in-residence, Diedre Irons.

Applications close on 29 October. Click here for all the info on how to apply.

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