The virus can’t stop the music

A young Dunedin musician’s path to the future has been rocked by the winds of Covid-19 every time he tried to steal New Zealand’s nest.

No matter where it lands, however, it makes music.

“I always come back here, apparently,” Nathaniel Otley said.

Mr. Otley studied music at the Department of Music at the University of Otago and graduated with a Bachelor of Music (Honours) in Performance and Composition in 2019.

After that, the Fulbright Foundation recognized his promise and awarded him a scholarship to study musicology in the United States.

He and his violin traveled there in January 2020 for auditions at the Eastman School of Music in New York State, Indiana University and New York University.

Mr Otley chose the Eastman School of Music, returning to New Zealand in February 2020, keen to start the next stage of his career.

Then Covid-19 broke out in the United States and Mr Otley made the difficult decision not to pursue his Fulbright.

He was preparing for a gig in Christchurch when a Tier 4 lockdown was declared. He flew an almost empty plane back to Dunedin.

“It was frustrating.

“But given the suffering elsewhere, getting upset about it would have been self-indulgent.”

Mr Otley said the lockdown gave him time to “sit down with things”.

“It was actually a fruitful time as I explored my options.”

Then it seemed that Mr. Otley’s education had picked up again. He contacted Australian composer and teacher Liza Lim and was awarded the prestigious William Georgetti Scholarship to study for a master’s degree at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music.

He moved to Sydney in May last year, but in June, the day after handing in his final first-half assignment, Covid-19 again thwarted his plans as the Delta outbreak swept through Sydney and a lock has been declared.

In August, he was on a plane to Dunedin, with more than three months remaining on the lease of his apartment in Sydney.

Now that he’s back home, Mr. Otley is far from idle. He is working on his master’s thesis remotely.

“I am happy to study with Prof. Lim. It was definitely the best possible decision for my learning,” he said.

Mr. Otley said his current musical research focuses on performance techniques that usually work in the background.

“My work explores transitional processes and sound intermediaries,” he said.

He also hosted a concert for the public on March 6 at 2 p.m. at Hanover Hall in Dunedin.

Although another variant of Covid-19 once again threatened his work, Mr Otley expected, under red light restrictions, to have an audience of 100 listeners.

With Tessa Petersen, Ngaru Martin and Heleen Du Plessis, all members of the Dunedin Symphony Orchestra, he will perform works by New Zealand composers Peter Adams, Gillian Whitehead, Leonie Holmes and Anthony Ritchie.

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