Musician Zosia Herlihy-O’Brien has been awarded the Maxwell Fernie Dame Malvina Major Foundation Award, worth $10,000 over two years, to further her organ education in Europe.
The 21-year-old will take up a place in September in the prestigious Master of Music programme at the Royal Academy of Music in London, specialising in organ, violin and conducting.
She says the award will help her to focus her energy and efforts on her studies and career path as a professional musician, and deepen and develop her knowledge, repertoire and performance skills in the French Romantic style of organ playing.
“I feel so humbled and grateful to be the recipient of this award. It opens the doors to France for me, which I had felt was outside of my financial reach. This support means that I can now take some time to indulge in exploring the French Romantic School of organ playing, which has always held much allure for me thanks to my beloved teacher Dr Philip Smith. To think that I will be walking up the same steps in September that Maxwell himself did during his own studies at RAM, is tremendously exciting.”
The award honours the memory of acclaimed New Zealand organist, conductor and teacher, Maxwell Fernie, who died in 1999. The Dame Malvina Major Foundation manages the Maxwell Fernie Trust and makes awards, in consultation with Maxwell’s widow Greta Fernie, to support young keyboard artists to further their education or training in the organ.
“I am incredibly honoured to be the recipient of Maxwell’s scholarship, and extremely humbled too the more I read about Maxwell, his life, his accomplishments, and the remarkable musical drive and gift for giving music that he possessed,” says Zosia.
“Receiving the award has really had me stop to think too, about the legacy that we leave behind that keeps us and our life and joys alive on the lips and in the minds of others who come after us.”
Twenty-one year old Zosia Herlihy-O’Brien is much in demand as a solo, orchestral, and chamber musician and well-recognised organist, violinist and emerging young conductor in the Auckland choral and instrumental space.
Currently the Director of Music (Organist and Choirmaster) at St Mark’s Anglican Church in Remuera, she has held Senior Organ Scholar roles at both Baradene College in Remuera and Holy Trinity Cathedral in Parnell, where she played as an organist for the Consecration of the Cathedral in 2017.
As an ‘audience favourite artist’ – and relative rarity in NZ as a young female organist – she is regularly sought after as a solo recitalist on the Auckland Town Hall organ and other venues across Auckland, and has collaborated as an organist on projects with some of New Zealand’s finest ensembles and musicians. Zosia teaches a small studio of eager young organ students at Sacred Heart College in Glendowie. She is also the current Conductor and Artistic Director of the Auckland University Students Chamber Orchestra, Concertmaster of the Auckland Youth Orchestra, and a regular speaker at local high schools to young people considering careers in music.
Zosia strives to make classical music accessible and appealing to all, through disbanding traditional notions of access and elitism with her evident passion, humility, and gift for connecting with people from diverse social and cultural backgrounds. She has inspired many young people to play the organ, and is attracting an increasing audience of international followers as astro_muso and madameorganist on social media.
Her 2022 BMus Honours studies (First Class) were completed under Dr Philip Smith for organ (Holy Trinity Cathedral, Parnell), Andrew Beer for violin (Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra Concertmaster), and Dr Karen Grylls (conducting and ensemble direction). Zosia is a 2023 Conducting Fellow with the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, a 2023 Michael Hill Violin Fellow, and in September this year begins her MMus studies (Organ, Violin, and Conducting) in London at the Royal Academy of Music.