SOUNZ staff member Roger Smith Roger Smith
Projects Manager | Kaiwhakahaere Hōtaka

Roger has had a long association with New Zealand music through his roles as Music Producer, Radio Feature Producer, and Manager of Radio New Zealand Concert.  He has also held the position of Education Manager with the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra.  He is a member of the Music Advisory Committee for the Douglas Lilburn Trust, which is administered under the Alexander Turnbull Library Endowment Trust. Roger has a BMus in Composition, a BA in Musicology, a PGDipIM in Information Management, a GradDipArts and an MA in German.  He is currently a doctoral candidate in German at Victoria University of Wellington.

In our Meet the Team series we invite you to sit down and learn more about each SOUNZ staff member. Today we introduce Roger Smith our Projects Manager | Kaiwhakahaere Hōtaka.

Where did you grow up?

My father was teaching at a tiny rural school south of Dunedin when I was born and so I lived in the schoolhouse at Taieri Beach School until I was eighteen months old.  We then moved to Dunedin and later to Nelson, before I decided to follow my dreams and come to Wellington to study architecture.  Every day on my way to the School of Architecture I would walk past the building site of the, then, new School of Music.  One day, just as I was beginning the final year of a degree in building science, my curiosity got the better of me and I decided to go and have a look at the School of Music up close.  That decision changed my life.  On that day I was fortunate to meet three extraordinary people whose influence I still feel keenly today: David Farquhar, Jack Body and Elizabeth Kerr.  Largely on the strength of those meetings I abandoned building science and embraced music – and I’ve never looked back!

What is your earliest musical memory?

I’ve got lots of early musical memories, especially from kindergarten, but the earliest one I can put a precise date to is from 11 February 1974, when I was five years old.  My parents took me to a Proms Concert in the Dunedin Town Hall, featuring the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra.  I remember they played Khachaturian’s Adagio of Spartacus and Phrygia (at that time the theme to the BBC television drama The Onedin Line).  That night I had the most vivid dream, set to the music of Khachaturian’s Adagio, and it was then that I had my first inkling of the incredible power of music to conjure images and emotions.  I’ve been dreaming about music ever since.

(How can I date this memory so precisely?  When I worked for the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra as the Education Manager, in 2008, I had a look through the archive to see if I could find any evidence of this concert ever having taken place.  Sure enough, on Monday 11 February 1974, the NZSO conducted by Stanley Black gave a Proms Concert at the Dunedin Town Hall.  I thank my parents for having had the foresight to take me along an orchestral concert at the age of five!)

What do you enjoy doing when you are not working?

When I’m not working at SOUNZ I’m likely to be working on my PhD in German Poetry of the First World War.  It’s a fascinating topic and I’m really enjoying it, but I’m also looking forward to finishing it (in about 18 months, all going well).

What has been your career progression?

I was really lucky when I finished at the School of Music to get a job almost right away at the, then, Concert FM radio network.  I started as a music scheduler, working with Brent Siddall the announcer on the breakfast session: 6-10am.  We still used vinyl records in those days, and one of my daily tasks was to wash the records for broadcast on a special record washing machine.  Fun times!

Then I had the opportunity to produce spoken feature programmes and studio music recordings and later live concert recordings and broadcasts.  My favourite work was producing radio features and documentaries.  I had a year away from Radio New Zealand in 2008 when I joined the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra as the Education Manager.  Then it was back to radio as Manager of RNZ Concert.  Since 2015 I’ve worked in several different part-time roles at Radio New Zealand, the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra and now at SOUNZ – and sometimes for all three organisations at once!  I’ve been really fortunate to have been able to work in music related roles all my working life.


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