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 Cancelled
CompositionLab Cancelled
Secondary Schools Orchestra Festival Cancelled
Chamber Music Weekend 25-27 September








We are delighted to launch our online Community Engagement Programme. Please see below for more details about how you can take part and keep the music going. 

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. 

    Please see our Calendar for the full schedule


    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. 

    Please fill in this form to register your school's interest. 


    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 (Cancelled)

    Due to the timeline of when announcements will be made regarding Level 1 and what that means in terms of mass gatherings, we have had to make the very difficult decision to cancel this event.

    For more information, please contact Selena Orwin 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. 

    Piano Play Day

    Pianists of all ages and levels are invited to present recitals of up to 20 minutes on the CSO’s Carter Steinway concert piano in the Ron Ball Studio on Sunday 16 August. Please register your interest to perform by 5pm Sunday 19 July. Places may be limited.

    Performance time is up to 20 minutes. Please allow for time between pieces. 

    As of 17 July, all slots for pianists 14 and under have been filled. 

    Click here for more information 

    Members of the public are most welcome to come along and enjoy some music by our local pianists. 

    The purchase of the Merle Carter Piano by the CSO was made possible through the generous support of the Maurice Carter Charitable Trust.

    Chamber Music Weekend, 25-27 September

    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. 

    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. 



    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


  • Ignite +

    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. 


    One True Note

    We are delighted to present One True Note, an interactive musical experience specially designed for people with disabilities.

    What’s involved:

    The visits are approximately 45 minutes and are Free of Charge. They are designed to be intimate, informal and interactive. A short introduction of instruments is followed by a performance featuring a wide range of styles of music. Throughout the session there will be opportunities to interact with the musicians and experience the music through listening, touch and feel. We are delighted to share our love of music so if there is a particular experience that you or someone you are a carer/support person for would enjoy, such as music to dance to or slow, quieter music then please do let us know.

    What do you need to do?

    Choose from one of the following options:

    Option 1: We come out to you. We need a space such as the school hall or large classroom. Could you please provide 5 armless chairs and have the space comfortably warm.

    Option 2: You come to us. We can host you in our studio housed in the CSO Centre, Christchurch Town Hall

    All spaces for One True Note have been filled. 


  • The Richard Chandler Memorial Piano Masterclass +

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

  • Educational resources +