Holly Mathieson


New Zealand-born Holly Mathieson is assistant Conductor of the RSNO, Resident Conductor of the National Youth Orchestra of Scotland Junior Orchestra and founder and Artistic Director of the Horizont Musik-Kollektiv (Berlin. She also teaches on the performance faculty at Goldsmiths University, London. This season, she works as assistant conductor with Opera North (L'elisir d'amore) and Longborough Festival Opera (Tannhäuser), and returns to NZ for concerts with The Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra, St Matthew Chamber Orchestra, Opus Orchestra and Dunedin Symphony Orchestra. In the 2016-17 season she will be a finalist for the music directorship at Illinois Philharmonic, and has debuts with several London orchestras. She was recently named by Zonta NZ as one of New Zealand's Top 50 Women of Achievement.

In the 2014/15 season she held one of the world's most prestigious fellowships for young conductors, the Leverhulme Fellowship at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, granting her opportunities to assist Donald Runnicles at the BBCSSO, and work with RSNO and Red Note Ensemble. She also debuted in London as the 2015 Christine Collins Young Artist Conductor in Associate at Opera Holland Park to critical acclaim, and was a finalist in the competition for assistant conductor, Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France. 

In the past, she has assisted both Esa-Pekka Salonen and Christoph von Dohnanyi at the Philharmonia Orchestra (London), and assisted Marin Alsop at the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment Prom, the BBCSO Last Night of the Proms, and with the Sao Paolo Symphony Orchestra on their recent European tour. In April 2014 she worked for the first time with the acclaimed Zafraan Ensemble in Berlin. In 2013, she debuted with St Matthew's Chamber Orchestra (NZ) the Vanbrugh Ensemble (London) and Opera Holland Park (London), and was cover conductor to Chris Warren-Green at the Charlotte Symphony (US). 2013 also saw success in being chosen as one of four young conductors from around the world to participate in the Interaktion Dirigentenwerkstatt des Kritischen Orchesters with players from the Berlin Philharmonic and other German orchestras, and a place as one of Dartington International Summer Schools advanced conducting fellows. She was immediately reinvited to Dartington in 2014 as a guest conductor.

Opera work includes several seasons with Opera Otago (NZ), including their critically acclaimed production of Così fan tutte at the 2008 Otago Festival of the Arts, the southern hemisphere premiere of Salieri's Falstaff (2006), and the world premiere of Anthony Ritchie's The God Boy (2004). As Artistic Director of the Solid Energy Chorus and Assistant Conductor at Southern Opera in 2009 and 2010, Holly collaborated on productions of Aida, Gianni Schicchi, Mendelssohn's Midsummer Night's Dream and Die Zauberflöte. She also assisted conductor Tecwyn Evans in the University of Otago's seasons of Madama Butterfly (2003) and Carmen (2006), and in 2013 was Chorus Director at London's Opera Holland Park. ​In 2014 she assisted Garry Walker at Garsington Opera (UK) in their award-winning production of Janáček’s The Cunning Little Vixen.

Awards for Holly's work include a 2013 Professional Development Grant from Creative NZ, the 2012 AMP Regional Scholarship from Roost Mortgages, the 2009 Patronage Award from Adrienne, Lady Stewart and the NZ Arts Foundation, and the Elman Poole Travelling Scholarship (2006). Holly was named a Ryoichi Sasakawa Young Leaders Fellow in 2008. She was also given a high commendation in the 2013 Taki Concordia Fellowship. Holly has trained in recent years with Paavo and Neeme Järvi, Leonid Grin, John Carewe, Pierre-André Valade, Mark Stringer, Alexander Polishchuk, Neil Thomson and John Farrer, and been in receipt of scholarships and prizes to study at the Dartington International Summer School, St Petersburg Chamber Philharmonic Masterclass and London Conducting Workshops.

Holly holds a PhD in Music Iconography, entitled "Embodying Music: The Visuality of Three Iconic Conductors in London, 1840-1940" and a MusBHons(1st class) in composition and analyisis from Otago University, and an MMus in orchestral conducting from the University of Melbourne Conservatorium. She has published papers in Music in Art, and been invited to present papers at conferences in London, New York and New Zealand.


2016 Zonta NZ, Top 50 NZ Women of Achievement

2014 Leverhulme Conducting Fellow, Royal Conservatoire of Scotland

2013 Creative NZ professional development grant

2012 AMP and Roost Mortgage Scholarship winner

2009 Adrienne, Lady Stewart and the NZ Arts Foundation

2008 Ryoichi Sasakawa Young Leaders Fellowship​

2005-2007 Humanities Postgraduate Scholarship​

2006 Elman Poole Travelling Scholarship

2003 University of Melbourne Postgraduate Prize in Music

2002 Mona Semke Scholarship (Rotary)

2000 University of Otago J.M.W. Speirs Memorial Prize, Most Promising Conducting Student




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National Youth Orchestra of Scotland, junior orchestra
2015-07-12 Herald Scotland , Edinburgh
"Five stars

I'VE never believed in exercising literalism in this star-award system we (and others) employ to append some sort of personal, however experienced, value judgement at the top of a review. Does its use imply that one gig with a five-star-review was, by definition, better than a completely different event which received "only" four stars? Of course it doesn't: everything is evaluated in its own right. And nor do we count wrong notes.

String that lot together, and what we had from the Junior Orchestra of the National Youth Orchestra of Scotland on Saturday was a phenomenal display of musicianship. I literally thought, on the night: "These musicians are between eight and 13 years old; what they are achieving here tonight, in a sold-out Greyfriars concert, where the buzz is electric, is genuinely outstanding."

Everything they did, guided and released by the charismatic New Zealand conductor Holly Mathieson, from MacCunn's Land of the Mountain and Flood to Gliere's little-known, gloriously-melodic Horn Concerto, came soaring off the page. Horn soloist Diana Sheach's playing of the Gliere was a wonder to hear. I don't know if it's a masterpiece, but she made it feel like one: what conviction.

The Juniors' playing of John Maxwell Geddes' Dances at Threave had such meat, lilt and grace in its various sections that my left foot was giving it laldy, while my grin was close to inane. The band revealed a bit more to Debussy's Marche ecossaise than some do, and their foot-stomping finale, In the Hall of the Mountain King, was a right thumper. A great night, every one of you: bravo; everyone in the orchestra should feel proud.
(Michael Tumelty)
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