Tony Wu - violinist

We recently caught up with Tony Wu, who often leads TWSO, to find out more about his journey to Aotearoa New Zealand, and what music means to him. 

Kia ora Tony, you've been our TWSO Concertmaster recently - how did you come to get involved with TWSO and Orchestras Central?

Kia ora, I'm so honored and thrilled to have the chance to be the concertmaster for several concerts with TWSO! I'll treasure this as a major achievement in my life, filled with warm and happy memories - big thanks to OCT for giving me this opportunity. 

The story seems to start naturally with my journey immigrating to New Zealand. Around 2017, my wife and I decided to move to Hamilton from Taiwan. My wife and kids came over first, while I sorted out things in Taiwan. It wasn't until September 2019 that I finally immigrated. And then, right after that, came three years of the COVID-19 pandemic. While my family and I are thankful to have been lucky enough to be together during this time, it was tough to integrate into society due to lockdowns. There were no orchestras, no performances, and no opportunities to meet musicians in Hamilton as new friends, which made me, who's used to working and playing music with many musician colleagues, teachers, classmates, and friends over the years, feel quite lonely. 

Then, in 2022, as the situation improved, and society reopened, I started to connect with musicians. I was lucky to have school-aged children, and as they grew in their school, my wife and I happily volunteered for music activities at their school, getting to know the music teachers and even participating in some music activities or teaching. My wife and I assisted the school teachers in guiding the children's ensemble groups, and that's how I met Martin Griffiths. 

In 2019 I was then asked by Martin and Rachael to play in Cantata Vespers, which led to pleasant connections with musicians in Hamilton. In this Cantata ensemble, another violinist was Catherine Polglase, and you can probably guess what happened next! Catherine introduced me to TWSO. My first performance with TWSO was the 2022 Pastoral, followed by the 2023 Sunset Symphony. Oh my goodness, It was truly a wonderful moment in life!  Later, in the Pat the Pātētē series, I was appointed concertmaster of the orchestra. I treasure the opportunity to contribute to the orchestra with many devoted musicians and to enjoy playing with talented and passionate musicians! OCT's concerts are always creative, warm, and lively, inspiring me each time with new ideas and emotions. 

What have been your highlights? Any favourite projects or pieces? 

One of the most memorable TWSO concerts I've participated in so far was the 'Scenes’ concert held at the end of last year in Putāruru and Hamilton. It was my first time serving as the principal in a large-scale TWSO concert. The program for this concert was both challenging and incredibly engaging. During rehearsals, everyone's different learning experiences often sparked various ideas, such as fingering, bowing techniques, and phrasing. Of course, in the end, we delivered a successful and moving concert. Another notable concert was this year's Vivaldi by Candlelight concert held in Cambridge. This concert featured many concertos, with Lara Hall, Samuel Brough, Luca Manghi and Ashleigh Fraser as soloists. Collaborating with these professional soloists, their unique and imaginative interpretations added new dimensions to familiar music for me.

What are you up to when you're not on performing or practicing the violin?  

Oh! Apart from playing the violin, I also practice the piano, and I arrange music for the elementary, middle, and youth orchestras I teach, tailoring it to fit the members' skill levels and the ensemble's needs for a great practice experience.  
I have many other interests in life. Since moving to New Zealand, cooking and gardening have become daily essentials and a different experience from my previous life. It feels fresh and fulfilling! I also love taking walks and admiring the distinct seasons of New Zealand. I enjoy hiking too; last year, I almost went on a different trail every week. My two kids are still teenagers, and spending time with them, sharing life experiences, remains the most important part of my life. Learning English, adopting the Kiwi lifestyle, diving into New Zealand's culture, participating in expat communities, making new friends, absorbing new knowledge, reading books—all these are crucial and enjoyable. I also enjoy watching TV series. In the past couple of years, I've watched a lot of Korean dramas; I find the plots imaginative and the acting very realistic, which really draws me in.

We might be a little biased, but we love the Waikato! What do you enjoy about living here? 

I really do love Waikato! My in-laws, along with a whole van of new immigrants, traveled to various cities in both the North and South Islands, and in the end, most of them chose Hamilton as their city to settle in. After moving here ourselves, we also really enjoy this area! The necessary amenities for life are also very comprehensive. Gardens, lakes, rivers, suburban farms, mountain trails, and even hot springs are all great places for relaxation and recreation, and they're not far away either. The whole area is fresh, peaceful, serene, and safe. But beneath the quiet and clean appearance of this city, when you delve deeper, you'll find a very strong energy and vitality. Various activities and creativity abound. Take music events, for example; there are so many that it's almost overwhelming. It's a space where you can live freely. I can choose to stay at home and enjoy peace of mind and tranquility, finding joy in myself without the need to commute every day and suffer from traffic; but when I want to, I can also expand outward, meet people, make friends, and integrate into society. It can be said to be a serene yet vibrant region! Of course, there are many music events in this area! It's like having a soul, keeping people from ever feeling tired or bored in its tranquil simplicity. Besides my beloved family and children, I also have my OCT and other music friends, which make me feel that life is fulfilling, and my emotions are comforted. 

Great to speak with you Tony! Thanks for sharing your journey with us, and look forward to seeing you on stage again soon. Ngā mihi. 


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