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SOUNZ Like A Great Gig

06 May 2024

Dr Hannah Darroch explains the biggest challenges ahead, as she prepares for her new Chief Executive role in a leading musical organisation.

Without harmony, things can become a bit of a mess.

That's true in music and in careers.

Dr Hannah Darroch's found a way to bring harmony to both as she takes on her next creative challenge.

Both a professional musician and an experienced arts administrator, Darroch's naturally excited about taking the helm as the new Chief Executive of SOUNZ Centre for New Zealand Music, an organisation that works to champion, support and promote the sounds and mahi of Aotearoa’s composers.

Her two pillars of expertise bring a solid foundation to what could be described as an ideal role for Darroch.

She told The Big Idea "This role manages to weave together a lot of my past experiences, which made it really attractive from the outset: previous roles in arts organisations around Aotearoa, my research area in NZ composition, and my own experience as a performer and commissioner of NZ music.

"I've worked as Communications Manager for the NZ Choral Foundation, Digital Content and Programme Producer at RNZ Concert, Marketing and Communications Executive for Chamber Music NZ, and Development Assistant at the NZSO, and those roles all interlinked with SOUNZ in some way - as has my performing career, working on videos of NZ works, and using the online database resource frequently. 

"So I suppose you could say that SOUNZ already felt like a regular part of my musical life."

Flute 'n all

Currently the Principal Flute of the Christchurch Symphony Orchestra and teaching at the University of Canterbury’s School of Music, Darroch's musical career took her overseas. While abroad in Canada, Aotearoa very much stayed in Darroch's heart - her Doctor of Music from Montreal's McGill University focused on connections between the timbre of taonga pūoro and its use in contemporary NZ flute works.

Backing this up, Darroch also recently commissioned a set of four works for flute and piano by NZ women composers, with funding from Creative NZ. 

Hannah Darroch. Photo: Supplied.

"SOUNZ have done incredible work in recent years in expanding their content creation involving Māori instruments, and the rediscovery of instruments from around the Pacific - it's very important to me that we continue to have these sounds in the spotlight, and that musicians from these sound worlds are welcomed into the SOUNZ network. 

"The challenge, of course, is having the resources to achieve that to the level we'd all like, and that will be something I'll be needing to delve further into once I step into the role (in August)." 

Tiumalu Noma Sio, Co-Chair of SOUNZ, notes “Hannah will make a wonderful addition to the SOUNZ whānau, a whānau who have been part of Hannah’s selection process. She is a great alignment for SOUNZ ethos for today and for future generations of SOUNZ composers, and we look forward to the leadership and innovation that Hannah will bring to the role of CE as SOUNZ enters 33 years of existence.”

Fellow Co-Chair Eve de Castro-Robinson praises Darroch's "exceptional energy, drive, and vision", adding “Her experience as a professional musician, and in arts administration and digital comms, as well a deep connection to the sounds and music of Aotearoa, are ideal qualities for this position.”

Darroch is excited about what lies ahead.

"SOUNZ is such an important resource for the NZ music community, and becoming a part of their skilled team with such a meaningful kaupapa was really appealing.

"Knowing the organisation quite well already, and having a supportive network of colleagues in the sector has also allowed it to feel like a natural fit - and certainly helped it to be a viable step-up role for someone like me, in the 'under-40' career phase.

"I've been inspired by the recent direction of SOUNZ, from what I've noticed especially since moving back to Aotearoa from Canada in 2020. The Board is very engaged in the arts and supportive of my development, and it's an exciting prospect to be taking over the leadership of an organisation that's pivotal to so many Aotearoa musicians through its advocacy and opportunities." 

Key challenges ahead

But Darroch is certainly going in with eyes wide open - with the fast-changing environment needing a steady hand to navigate through potentially choppy waters.

"One of the biggest challenges facing all arts leaders in Aotearoa right now is sustainability, and how we go about ensuring that those in the industry can thrive, within an increasingly tough financial landscape. SOUNZ already acts as a connector between a lot of organisations and individual practitioners in the music sector. 

"Within funding constraints, I can foresee new collaborations, and working together across the arts in new ways becoming more commonplace - as well as being an exciting way to support one another to achieve our goals, even as funding inevitably changes. 

"Tied into that - another challenge for the arts is the need to futureproof our organisations - whether that be through strengthening existing offerings, diversifying our audiences, or really taking time to consider new innovative pathways forward in order to remain relevant and therefore viable and justifiable long-term. 

"SOUNZ is in its 33rd year, and I'm very interested in continuing to evolve how we engage with our rangatahi, to foster their interest in becoming curious about how Aotearoa sounds in 2024 and beyond.

"I think it's crucial that SOUNZ can provide a snapshot of the sound of Aotearoa at any given time, and champion both our musical past and future through education and information sharing." 

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