Community Engagement

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 2019, we will reach 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 2019 Secondary Schools Orchestra Festival, with support from CWSMTA
  • The CSO's acclaimed Karawhiua! Let's Play! residency programme.
  • CSO ensemble performances at retirement villages, libraries, and for community groups.
  • Exhilarating performances of Big Bang Concerts in the Christchurch Town Hall for 4000 school students
  • Working alongside Pathway Reintegration on projects inside local Corrections facilities. 
  • A brand new programme in partnership with Dementia Canterbury. 
  • Chamber music weekend for community chamber groups
  • Conducting and composition workshops
  • Masterclasses

We would like to acknowledge the support of Beca for our Community Engagement Programme. 

  • 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 2019, 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. 

    All spaces for our 2019 Karawhiua! Let's Play! residency programme have been filled. If you are interested in the 2020 Karawhiua! Let's Play! residency programme, please email Cathy Irons at

    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 pre-schoolers across Canterbury, bringing music, song and dance to fourteen Canterbury libraries. See our calendar for a full list of dates and times. 


    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. 


    Big Bang Concerts

    Two vibrant and entertaining concerts for school students (yrs 0-8) featuring the CSO in all its symphonic glory. If your school is interested in attending a Big Bang concert, please click here and fill in the form. 

    Big Bang Concerts 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. 


  • 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. 

    Chamber Music Weekend 

    A weekend of small ensemble music learning and performing. 

    Ideally suited for people who have been playing their instument for three or more years.

    Come along to the CSO Chamber Music Weekend for two days of small ensemble music learning and performing. This is a great opportunity to enhance your own personal musical development with our CSO tutors in a friendly, supportive atmosphere. All orchestral instruments are welcome, and participants can register as a pre-formed group or as individuals. Groups are welcome to bring their own music, or we will provide you with music ahead of time.

    Applications for the Chamber Music Weekend have now closed. 



    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. 



    CompositionLab: a new music workshop for composers

    This workshop provides composers of all ages and abilities with an opportunity to have a composition performed by the CSO in a relaxed and supportive environment. 


    Secondary Schools Orchestra Festival 

    Presented in association with the Canterbury Westland Secondary Music Teachers Association, the Secondary Schools Orchetra Festival includes sectionals, workshop and a combined massed orchestra performance in the Town Hall. 

    • Wednesday 18 September, workshops for participating orchestras
    • Saturday 21 September, open CSO rehearsal and concert for participating schools
    • Sunday 22 September, massed rehearsals and Showcase concert starting at 3.30pm. The massed item conducted by Chief Conductor Benjamin Northey takes place at 5.45pm. 



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


    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. 


    Professional Development for Teachers

    The CSO has developed a series of workshops specifically for primary school teachers who aren't musicians but wish to offer music-based programmes to their students. Workshops aim to improve confidence through hands-on training. Participants do not need to read music or play an instrument. Applications for this workshop have now closed. 

  • 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 thorugh 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