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Arts Organisation

The Piano’s New Director – Marcus Norman


Marcus Norman is just three days into his new job as the Director of The Piano when we speak to him – A clarinettist in a past life and most recently the general manager of The New Zealand String Quartet Circus Company & School, Marcus has returned to Ōtautahi after many years away.

Congratulations on the new role! You’re from Christchurch originally, yes?

Yes, born and raised in Ōtautahi. So, for me, the move back home into a music leadership role is quite special – it feels like a privilege to be able to give back to the community where I grew up.

It’s a terrible cliché – but what school did you go to?

Tell me you’re from Christchurch without saying you’re from Christchurch! I went to Burnside High School, which is well-known for its vibrant music department – the opportunities there were really great. It has a very real musical culture there with so many music students. After high school, I did my first year of my music degree at Canterbury University with Gretchen La Roche (the new director of The Court Theatre) actually, so it’s nice to be back here at the Piano with familiar faces in the neighbourhood.

How do you think you were influenced by the city growing up? As your career has progressed, does Christchurch take on more importance to you?

It’s a good question, I find that as I move through my career, the more appreciative I am of those formative experiences I had as a child. There were so many opportunities – school orchestras and choirs; the Big Sing, the Primary Schools’ Music Festival. One of my pertinent memories is of performing and rehearsing with the Christchurch Youth Orchestra in the chapel in the old convent building on Barbadoes Street, managed of course by the forerunner organisation to The Piano, so  it’s a lovely full circle moment for me to have performed there when I was young and now to be the director of the fabulous new venue The Piano. But in terms of the city itself, the music opportunities for young people – across all genres – in Ōtautahi are really second to none. It’s certainly the place to grow up and pursue a love of music, no matter what your individual taste is. How lucky are we?

Tell me about your new role – what does being the director of The Piano mean for you?

It means enabling wonderful music and arts events in Christchurch at a world class venue, a venue that is for and of the people of Christchurch. It’s a place where people can come and be inspired by performances, get involved with workshops and make connections with artists and audiences of all kinds. I see my role as playing a part in ensuring the arts flourish in Christchurch.

You’ve been away for several years – coming back to the city, what’s your perception of the local arts scene?

I think it’s a secret still to most of New Zealand, the breadth and scale of the arts scene we have here! We have such a flourishing scene- you could easily be out every night at something and that’s the mark of a real cultural city. We have so many amazing venues to perform in and meet in, it’s truly an art lover’s paradise. There’s a feeling of momentum and vibrancy here – the street art, the music, the visual arts – it’s exciting how much of a cultural powerhouse Ōtautahi is.

Speaking of world class venues – The Piano is a fantastic venue for the city.

There’s something about the look and feel of the building that’s so welcoming and inspiring, and of course, the acoustics of the Philip Carter Family Concert Hall are simply world class.  The Piano is also a real hub – we have sixteen studios on the first floor and lots of additional performance and meeting spaces. There’s everything from music to spoken word, theatre to conferences at The Piano. It’s really exciting, I’m in my first week and really soaking up the energy – it’s infectious!

What’s your approach to the role going to be?

My approach to directing The Piano is to ensure it is relevant and responding to the people who enjoy and use it. The Piano is already becoming an iconic Christchurch landmark, and my over-arching vision is for The Piano to be a destination venue for people to come and experience a whole range of events and performances – and hopefully, to try something new – because they will know it’s going to be an excellent experience at The Piano. I am committed to ensuring it remains accessible to local artists and community groups – a place to inspire the arts makers and appreciators.

There’s something about The Piano that is very inviting.

I went to the venue recently as an audience member for a performance and it was lovely meeting our front of house team and the warmth was evident from the very first step in the door. The team take a real sense of pride in their work that they do – they really make sure it’s a welcoming place for everyone – we don’t want barriers to participation. That’s a credit to outgoing director Bronwyn Bjil, she’s really created something so special.

Finally, tell us something we might not know about The Piano?

One of the really exciting programmes we run at The Piano is the Next Generation Initiative – supporting young people to attend concerts at The Piano for free. Our rangatahi are the next generation of both audience members and performers and as a venue that’s for the community we see it as an important role in nurturing the future of the arts. With the support of our generous donors (you could be one too!) our aim is to cover the cost of 1000 young people every year to attend concerts and help encourage participation in the arts. It’s going to be a privilege to facilitate that.  

Check out the amazing range of events coming up at The Piano here. [Link]




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