Concerto success in Tauranga for Pettman Academy cello student Esther Lee


Esther Lee, a year 12 student and cellist at Epsom Girls Grammar School, has been attending the Pettman National Junior Academy for over six years and is a familiar participant at many local and national competitions and concerts. In 2016 Esther performed as a soloist with the Bay of Plenty Symphonia, reached the semi-final of the Pettman Chamber Competition and finished runner-up in the Pettman Solo Competition. 

Esther looks back on her experiences with the Bay of Plenty Symphonia in 2015 with plenty of pride. The opportunity to appear as a soloist in one of their concerts in Tauranga came about because she was one of the finalists in the Rising Star Competition. It was her first appearance as a soloist with an orchestra, performing the first movement of Joseph Haydn’s Cello Concerto No. 1 in C major, Hob. VIIb/1, a work that had been presumed lost until its rediscovery in Prague in 1961. Esther describes her experiences playing with the orchestra as being “really enjoyable and very exciting to work with them”. Esther has also won several first prizes in the junior categories of music competitions in Tauranga and second prize in the second category of the 2016 Auckland Competition for Young String Players. She was also a finalist in the NZCT Chamber Music Contest in 2016, achieved first place in the Pauline Alexander Cup for instrumental scholarship in 2014 and 2015, and won the Anna Ahlers Memorial Cello Trophy in the 11–28 category in 2014.

The Pettman Academy has provided numerous opportunities for Esther to grow as a musician, too. She says: “I find the programme very helpful, it enables me to develop into a good musician. There are plenty of opportunities, especially the masterclasses and concerts”. Esther views her participation in masterclasses given by the internationally-renowned flamenco cellist Ramon Jaffé as being particularly important in her development as a musician, and looks forward to many similar events in the future. She is currently taught by Edith Salzmann and is working towards the next annual secondary schools NZCT Chamber Music Contest as well as the Christchurch Cello Competition in October 2019, at which she hopes to perform part of Prokofiev’s Cello Concerto in E minor. 

Looking further into the future, Esther has hopes to study cello and music at university. Following her participation at the Melbourne Cello Festival in 2017, Esther has been inspired to study at the University of Melbourne in the not too distant future. Her dream is to one day have the opportunity to study at the Juilliard School of Music in New York. As for longer-term career plans, Esther says the following: “I’d love to be a performing musician, travelling all over the world and playing in as many different countries as possible. I also want to teach music and share my knowledge with younger musicians. My aspiration of playing the cello is to heal people’s heart by playing cello to them”. 

We are sure that we’ll hear plenty more about Esther’s achievements in the coming months and years as she continues to excel as a musician with a bright future ahead.