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Go For It!

11 May 2023

Leading New Zealand classical musician Ashley Brown has had 21 years of success with NZTrio, but what pearls of wisdom would he give his 22-year-old self?

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Ashley Brown. Photo: Jennifer Raoult. 

Highly-regarded classical music group NZTrio is celebrating its 21st anniversary by touring the country this month.

Founder and cellist Ashley Brown has been in high demand for much of that time, earning acclaim as a musician of “unimpeachable artistry”.

To look back on how this journey started, we asked him what advice he would give his younger self.

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Well, 22-year-old Ash (above), you’ll be coming to the end of your Canterbury University days. You’ll be full of uncertainty about the future, how plans to study at Yale will pan out and what kind of a career lies ahead for you. 

You’ve kept your horizons broad so far, but now it’s time to narrow the focus so you’ll be nervous about making those big, life-impacting decisions. And you’ll be worried about losing touch with the friends you leave in New Zealand.

Just go for it, bro!

Be hungry and full of wonder

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The original incarnation of NZTrio - pianist Sarah Watkins, Ashley Brown and violinist Justine Cormack. Photo: Supplied.

There’s so much to learn and experience. Notice more. Luxuriate in what you find. Exciting opportunities are available to you, but don’t just let them happen: Knock on the doors, rattle the windows.

The wisdom that the world offers is powerful. It’s a wave worth surfing. You need to put in some effort to catch the wave and you have to keep your wits about you to stay in the sweet spot. But feeling that momentum is a beautiful thing. 

There might be a few wobbles along the way and there’ll certainly be plenty of opportunities and temptations to step off (and sometimes it’ll feel like you’re headed for a massive wipeout) but recover quickly and stay with it, and it’ll carry you on an amazing, gnarly ride! 

Be grateful

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Somi Kim (piano), Ashley Brown (cello) and Amalia Hall (violin). Photo: Jennifer Raoult. 

At Yale, you’ll learn at least as much from your fellow students as from your teachers. Later in life, learning from your colleagues will continue to be a hugely important aspect and a luxury. 

Each experience - whether positive and encouraging or otherwise - brings you new energy and understanding.

It’s wonderful that you’ve made good friends and had a great time through your school and varsity days. Of those friendships, the ones that are meant to last, will. Cherish them. And by the way, you’re about to make a tonne of new mates from all corners of the globe so it’s all good!

22-year-old Ash, I’m 51 now. You might follow this same path and turn out like me. If so, I can tell you there’s a rich and fascinating ride ahead of you. 

But no matter what path your life follows, know this: if you remain true to yourself, you’ll never look back with regret. 

Go for it! 

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NZTrio in 2023. Photo: Katherine Brook

Ashley Brown and NZTrio are currently touring the country with Chamber Music NZ - Napier (11 May), New Plymouth (16 May), Palmerston North (17 May), Wellington (20 May), Nelson (21 May), Christchurch (23 May), Dunedin (24 May) and Invercargill (25 May) still to come.