Community Engagement

Due to the current COVID-19 situation and the national lockdown, many of our Community Engagement activities have been postponed. However, we are currently looking at ways to engage with our community via digital platforms. 

Below are a list of activities that have been changed due to the coronavirus. 

Activity Status
Upper Strings Masterclass Now online, live, 1 April, 4-6pm
Music Trails Please see our Concert Calendar
Beethoven's Big Birthday Bash Now rescheduled to Sunday 30 August
CompositionLab On hold
Secondary Schools Orchestra Festival Cancelled








If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us by emailing

Our award winning Community Engagement programme delivers a wide range of exciting opportunities and experiences for people of all ages, backgrounds and abilities to engage with the CSO and enjoy live orchestral music.

In 2020, we will engage with more than 35,000 people through our Community Engagement activities, including: 

  • Lively interactive instrument demonstrations by ensembles of CSO musicians at pre, primary and high schools in and around Christchurch and throughout the South Island.
  • The Beethoven's Big Birthday Bash festival
  • The CSO's acclaimed Karawhiua! Let's Play! residency programme.
  • CSO ensemble performances at retirement villages, libraries, and for community groups.
  • Exhilarating performances of Tūmahana: Exchange Concerts in the Christchurch Town Hall for 4000 school students
  • Working alongside Pathway Reintegration on projects inside local Corrections facilities. 
  • The Flourish Dementia Programme partnership with Dementia Canterbury. 
  • Conducting and composition workshops
  • Masterclasses


  • Karawhiua! Let's Play! +

    Karawhiua! Let's Play! is our critically acclaimed school residency programme in which CSO musicians base themselves in a school for a week. We work with students from all year groups, supporting them as they develop class based music projects. 

    During 2020, we will be based in a different school each term and are especially interested in working with schools that have little or no music programmes in place but are keen to offer their students the opportunity to participate in musical experiences. 

    Karawhiua! Let's Play! residencies are Learning Experiences Outside the Classroom supported by the Ministry of Education. 

  • Encounter +

    We want to share music with as many people as possible from our cmmunities and the Encounter programme provides a wide range of opportunities to hear CSO musicians perform. 

    Music Trails

    We are delighted to expand our popular interactive music sessions for 2-6 year-olds across Canterbury, bringing music, song and dance to fourteen Canterbury libraries in Christchurch and Selwyn. 


    Christchurch City Libraries (All performances start at 10.30am)

    • Wednesday 4th March - Parklands Library
    • Wednesday 1st April - Te Hāpua: Halswell Centre  Cancelled
    • Wednesday 6th May - South Christchurch Library
    • Wednesday 3rd June - Tūranga
    • Wednesday 1st July - Linwood Library
    • Wednesday 5th August - Upper Riccarton Library
    • Saturday 5th September - New Brighton Library
    • Saturday 3rd October - Matuku Takotako: Sumner Library
    • Wednesday 4th November - Fendalton Library
    • Wednesday 2nd December - Papanui Library

    Selwyn District Libraries (Two performances per library at 10.15am and 11.30am) 

    Friday 8th May - Rolleston Library
    Friday 15th May - Leeston Library
    Friday 22nd May - Lincoln Library
    Friday 29th May - Darfield Library


    CSO in Schools

    Groups of CSO musicians will visit primary schools throughout the Canterbury region to introduce the students to the instruments of the orchestra through fun, characterful music and hands on activities. 

    All slots for Primary School Visits in 2020 have been filled. If you are interested in having a CSO ensemble come along to your school in 2021, please contact:

    Tūmahana: Exchange Concerts

    Two vibrant and entertaining concerts combining both English and Te Reo Māori for school students (yrs 0-8) featuring the CSO in all its symphonic glory, along with performers from Circotica, will bring the spectacle of bi-cultural music collaboration and circus feats to stage. This is the perfect way to follow up on your Karawhiua! Let's Play! residency or CSO ensemble visit experience, allowing students to see the full orchestra in action. 

    To register your school's interest in attending a Tūmahana: Exchange concert, please click here to fill in the form.

    These two performances  are Learnng Experiences Outside the Classroom supported by the Ministry of Education. 

    Please note that schools must provide their own transport to and from the Christchurch Town Hall. 


    Ambassador Programmes

    Our Ambassador Programmes offer students a unique in-depth view into the world of orchestral music. Students meet with CSO players, conductors and soloists, attend open rehearsals and can invite their peers to attend selected free concerts. 


    Recitals at Retirement and Lifestyle Villages

    Throughout the year, CSO ensembles will visit retirement and lifestyle villages, rest homes, and care centres, performing lively recitals featuring a wide range of music from elegant classics to popular favourites. 


    Beethoven's Big Birthday Bash - now rescheduled for 30 August

    Come along and join the festivities in this day long music festival hosted by the CSO as we celebrate 250 years since Beethoven's birth. This is a free event for everyone to come along and participate in Beethoven's musical legacy as either performers or simply enjoy a day of great music. Click here for more information about Beethoven's Big Birthday Bash. 


    For more information, please contact Cathy Irons at


  • Tune Up +

     The CSO offers a wide range of opportunities through the Tune Up programme for musicians of all ages and abilitiesa to further develop their musical skills and knowledge. We look forward to meeting you and sharing musical experiences together. 

    CompositionLab - Postponed. New date to be confirmed. 

    CompositionLab is a three-part workshop where selected composers work in an in-depth manner with a CSO conducted ensemble to read and revise a sketch of a composition and test out new ideas.

    This is a great opportunity for graduates or postgraduate students of composition to test out their musical ideas, develop them in conjunction with experienced professional musicians. Mentoring is available if requested. 

    Over three 3-hour sessions in September, up to four composers will be able to revise, test and try out their sketches of new compositions during readings with a conducted ensemble.

    It is not necessary to submit a completed composition; in fact, we highly recommend you submit a work in progress that you would like to develop.

    For more information, please click here

    Please fill in this form to apply

    Chamber Music Weekend

    A weekend of small ensemble music making for people of all ages and abilities. Some participants are members of existing ensembles, looking for fresh ideas and further development, whilst others are seeking to meet and play with like-minded musicians. 

    The Chamber Music Weekend includes tutored sessions led by CSO musicians, break-out practice sessions, discussions and presentations on relevant topics as well as a combined piece to be performed by all participants in a final concert. 

    The cost of the weekend is $80, plus Saturday evening dinner (not included). To apply, please fill in this form. 

    Sectional Rehearsals

    Would your concert band, orchestra or brass band like a CSO musician to come and coach a sectional for part or all of your group? We're keen to hear about the artistic goals of your organisation and to discuss how we might be able to support you to achieve these. 


    Conducting Workshop

    Led by CSO Chief Conductor Benjamin Northey, this interactive workshop offers valuable insights and helpful advice on conducting. 



    Throughout the year, the CSO will be hosting a series of Masterclasses by CSO musicians and visiting international guest artists. 

    Upper Strings Masterclass, 1st April, 4-6pm, Ron Ball Studio  Digital
    CSO Assistant Concertmaster Sarah McCracken and Principal Viola Serenity Thurlow will be giving advice, feedback and mentoring to violin and viola students from Grades 4 to 7 in this masterclass. Obeservers are welcome. Please contact Selena Orwin at to register your interest. More information to come regarding the streaming of the Masterclass. 

    Elaine P Snowden Scholarship

    This scholarship is avilable to University of Canterbury students and provides opportunities to perform in selected CSO concerts. 


    Alison Barwick Internship Programme

    Up to two young musicians are selected annually to receive lessons, mentoring and rehearsal access to the CSO. 

    The purpose of the Internship is to provide a stimulating, supportive and positive experience for young emerging musicians, where skills are developed and relationships formed within the professional orchestral environment. This programme forms the link between musical studies and orchestral performance.

    The Internship Programme includes:

    • 2 paid Concerts with the CSO
    • 2 lessons with Section Principal
    • Feedback from the principal or/and orchestral mentor

    The Internship is open to any orchestral instrument and for players up to 25 years.  Applicants may be shortlisted and will be invited to audition. The requirements are:

    • Own choice piece (accompaniment optional, accompanist not provided); 5 minutes
    • Own choice scale and arpeggio
    • Orchestral excerpts (2) (to be provided by CSO or any 2 NZSSSO excerpts)
    • Sight-reading

    Applications for the 2020 Internship Programme have now closed. For information on how to apply for the 2021 intake, please email


  • Flourish +

    We are excited to launch our new programme of hands on music performance for people with dementia, in partnership with Dementia Canterbury. 

    The programme is designed to instil enjoyment, creative expressions and develop new skills under the encouragement and support of CSO musicians. 

  • Platform +

    Our Platform programme, in partnership with Pathway Reintegration, takes music into correctional facilities, providing participants with opportunities for personal growth and to develop new skills through music and creative expresssion. 

    See news coverage about our Platform programme below: 

    Radio New Zealand



  • Amplify +

    The Amplify programme aims to provide opportunities for people of all abilities to experience, participate in and express themselves through music. 

    We will continue to collaborate with Jolt Dance Company through their biennial showcase and Move and Collaborative classes. 

    The CSO will also be introducing a series of relaxed performances. 

  • The Richard Chandler Memorial Piano Masterclass +

    This masterclass series was established in 2016 in memory of our friend and colleague, Richard Chandler.

  • Educational resources +

    Peter & the Wolf/Pita me te Wuruhi Ebook in English and Te Reo Māori

    Taonga puoro (Māori  instruments) resource

    Karawhiua! Let's Play! post residency activities