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Back-to-back wins for Christchurch opera singer

William O'Brien (credit Sebastian Boyle) and Thomas Bedggood

Christchurch opera singer William O’Brien has won a Dame Malvina Major Foundation Christchurch Arts Excellence Award for a second year running as he continues his studies at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music despite the challenges brought about by Covid-19.

The Arts Excellence Award, worth $5,000, was awarded by the Christchurch Committee of the Dame Malvina Major Foundation as part of the Foundation’s wider programme to help talented young performing artists to achieve their potential.

Dame Malvina Major Foundation Christchurch Committee Chair Anna Midgley says the award is a validation for William that the Foundation has faith in his ability to achieve his dreams.

“William has made the most of the opportunities that he has been given in this past year and is determined to apply himself to the task ahead of him, despite these challenging times. As his teacher Matthew Worth noted, William has ‘distinguished himself from his exceptional peers’.”

Last year William made the switch from law to pursue a professional singing career, commencing a Master of Music at the prestigious San Francisco Conservatory of Music. Since March, William has been back home in Christchurch due to the Covid-19 pandemic, studying and receiving coaching online from San Francisco. He plans to return in the coming months and has secured a place in the 2021 Berlin Opera Academy summer programme.

Williams says he is incredibly grateful to have the continued encouragement and generous support of the Dame Malvina Major Foundation as he works towards his goals despite the challenges that 2020 has brought.

“The award comes as a ray of very encouraging light during what is a difficult time globally for young artists. I am excited to reach for the opportunities ahead, both from San Francisco and soon in Berlin, and this award helps me to do just that.”

As part of its Arts Excellence awards, the Dame Malvina Major Foundation Christchurch Committee also awarded the Cecily Maccoll High Achiever Award, worth $1,000, to violinist Thomas Bedggood.

Thomas is studying music at the University of Canterbury and plans to use the funding towards his Honours year, which will include collaborations with various composers and performers across New Zealand. He says the award is a huge confidence boost.

“Music is something that I love, and to be acknowledged for what I do is an incredible feeling.”


Auckland pianists repeat winners of DMMF Arts Excellence Awards


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