Bright Young Things
A recording got William McNeill a place in the National Youth Orchestra, writes Stacey Oliver.
The only time 16-year-old William McNeill isn't listening to music is when he is at school or tramping. Otherwise, he lives and breathes music, from reggae to punk and indie. But mostly, William's interest lies with playing music on his french horn. In March he was selected to play in the National Youth Orchestra for up-and-coming musicians under 25.
Being chosen to play in the orchestra was an opportunity for William to play with musicians who were at the same level as him.
The Palmerston North Boys' High School student was one of 80 musicians chosen to play in the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra NYO, and just one of two musicians from Palmerston North selected. The group performed at the beginning of September in Wellington and Auckland after an intensive week of training.
The grade eight player was surprised to be accepted into the orchestra because of the intense competition from other musicians, some of whom actually study music at university. "I had to do a recording and send that in because I was going to France on a school trip when they were offering to go to Wellington to have them record you for the audition."
But William's recording was more than enough to secure him a place in the orchestra. "It's actually really cool. It's sort of like an opportunity to play with musicians the same age as you. In Palmerston North, especially for a french horn player, there's not a lot of people who play it. In the NYO there's five of us and four on the same level. "
William began playing the french horn as an alternative to the trumpet, because the french horn allowed him the freedom to play a wider range of music.
"When I was eight or nine someone said the french horn was good for left handers and there was a teacher who was willing to teach me. I thought `I might as well go for the french horn and see what it is like'."
Six years on, he has performed in the NYO two years in a row, playing the french horn.
"It's a lot more versatile than the trumpet. Sometimes, [the french horn] gets melodies, sometimes it's got solos, sometimes it's got a counter melody."
William's success in the realm of orchestral music is not surprising. His mother, Marice, teaches the violin and the viola, and his father, Jeff, a senior lecturer at Massey University, plays the bassoon. His two older sisters each play an instrument, and William also plays the piano and the violin. This is the second year his eldest sister has made it into the NYO.
"The NYO is like the step before the symphony orchestra; it's for the up-and-coming musicians."
William says he would like to play music professionally but thinks it's also "cool just to be able to play music just for fun. If you're playing music all day as a professional, you can't really come home and play because that's just too tiring."
Instead, William would like to study public policy at Massey University, and also take some music classes.
- © Fairfax NZ News