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Association of Choral Directors

Tribute to Guy Jansen

We were very sad to learn of the death last week of former Chair of NZCF, Dr Guy Jansen. Guy passed away on 27 May, on his 84th birthday. Guy Jansen was a pioneer and visionary, a man full of ‘big ideas’ who had the drive and tenacity to turn those ideas into remarkable success stories.

From 1975–89, Guy was the National Officer for Music in the NZ Department of Education with responsibility for primary and secondary school music. During those years, Guy set up numerous courses, schemes and institutions that would become the foundation of the flourishing choral scene we now enjoy in this country: group vocal tuition in schools, holiday choral courses, regional choral festivals (forerunners of The Big Sing), the New Zealand Youth Choir (the first of its kind in the world) and the New Zealand Secondary Students’ Choir.

In the 1980s, Guy was the recipient of a Winston Churchill Travelling Fellowship, an Arts Council award and a Fulbright Scholarship which enabled him to study for a Doctor of Musical Arts in Choral Music at the University of Southern California. There he worked with renowned choral conducting and composition professors Rodney Eichenberger and Morten Lauridsen, and his fellow doctoral students included Jerry Blackstone and Jo-Michael Scheibe.

Within our own organisation, Guy was an inaugural member of the Governance Board of NZCF and chaired the Board from 2010 to 2012. During his tenure as Chair he was the driving force behind the establishment of the Association of Choral Directors (ACD) and our biennial Choral Connect conventions, which grew out of the Summer Schools in Choral Conducting that Guy initiated and co-directed with Karen Grylls for many years.

NZCF benefitted enormously from Guy’s worldwide connections. He attended several international conferences and World Symposiums on Choral Music, and this enabled him to maintain and extend his international networks and to bring fresh ideas and initiatives back to New Zealand. He was personally connected with musicians all over the country, was keenly interested in the activities of his colleagues and was generous in his encouragement of the careers of many younger New Zealand conductors.

In 2011, Guy was awarded an MNZM for his services to music, in 2013 he was made a Life Member of NZCF and in 2017 he was presented with a Distinguished Service Award from the Association of Choral Directors.

Since retiring from the NZCF Board in 2013, Guy has devoted much of his time to writing a history of choral music in New Zealand. Although he will sadly not see his book in print, he died knowing that a publication date has been confirmed by Massey University Press for later this year.

Guy Jansen’s legacy is immense, the reach of that legacy is vast, and our choral community is so much the richer for his passion and vision.

A memorial service in celebration of Guy’s life will be held at Queen Margaret College Auditorium, Wellington, on Saturday 15 June at 2pm.

You can hear an interview on RNZ Concert’s Upbeat with NZCF Chief Executive Christine Argyle in which she talks about Guy Jansen’s contribution to choral music in New Zealand.


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