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Stories and Press Realeases

Donald Armstrong and
Jian Liu Donald Armstrong and Jian Liu


Beethoven Violin Sonata Op 12 no 2
Debussy Violin Sonata
Cesar Franck Violin Sonata


Associate Concertmaster, NZSO - Artist Teacher, NZ School of Music

Born in Wellington, Donald Armstrong started early professional studies with the NZBC Orchestral Trainees (later the Schola Musica) and the NZ National Youth Orchestra. He participated in the 1975 World Tour of the NZ National Youth Orchestra giving concerts in Scotland, England and China. He joined the NZ Symphony Orchestra at the age of 19. Two years later, with an Arts Council Bursary and an Alex Lindsay Memorial Award Scholarship, he completed a post-graduate diploma at Mannes College, New York, and a Masters degree at the New England Conservatory in Boston, studying violin with Masuko Ushioda and Josef Gingold, and chamber music with Louis Krasner, Eugene Lehner and Laurence Lesser. As First Violin of the New England Conservatory Scholarship String Quartet, he won a special prize at the Concours International d’Évian held in France in 1982.

In 1983 Donald Armstrong was appointed Principal Second Violin of the Tivoli Sinfoniorkester in Denmark and soon after become Concertmaster of the Orchestre Philharmonique de Nice in France. He returned to New Zealand in 1987 as Associate Concertmaster of the NZSO, a position he still holds.

Donald Armstrong was Music Director of the NZ Chamber Orchestra from 1987 to 2004. His incisive leadership was a major force in creating the dynamic and exciting style of the NZCO heard both in live concert and on its many commercial recordings.

Donald Armstrong has appeared as soloist with the NZSO and made frequent solo appearances with the NZ Chamber Orchestra.. He has continued his passion for chamber orchestra repertoire and enjoys introducing musical challenges to musicians and audiences alike. He has conducted the Chamber Orchestra on occasion, and more recently has conducted other New Zealand orchestras including “Hot Young Strings” a string orchestra made up of talented young professionals and students from the NZ School of Music. He also performs regularly with his own chamber group, the Amici Ensemble, playing chamber works ranging from very small to large ensembles.

Donald Armstrong is interested in preserving and advancing New Zealand’s musical heritage and as an artist teacher at the New Zealand School of Music, he teaches, coaches and encourages young instrumentalists. He plays a violin by Nicolo Gagliano of 1754.


Chinese-American pianist Jian Liu, Lecturer in Piano at Te Kōkī, New Zealand School of Music, is a highly sought-after solo pianist, chamber musician, and educator. He has appeared on concert stages in China, Japan, Singapore, Portugal, Switzerland, Ukraine, the United States and New Zealand, and with the Symphony Orchestra of National Philharmonic Society of Ukraine, Phoenix, Scottsdale, and Chandler Symphony Orchestras.

Liu’s performances have been broadcast by various TV and radio stations including KPHO (CBS) in Phoenix, Arizona, CCTV in China, Suisse Romande Radio in Switzerland, and Radio NZ Concert in New Zealand. Phoenix New Times praised Mr. Liu’s playing as “if his life, and yours, depends upon his perfect execution”. Marlborough Express commended that “he challenged the audience to let their emotions ride with the sounds.” In 2012 Mr. Liu was a guest artist for the New Zealand International Piano Festival in Auckland and undertook a 10-concert national concert tour for Chamber Music New Zealand.

At age 12, Mr. Liu was accepted at the prestigious Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing. He moved to the United States when he was 15, and promptly won first place at the 6th Missouri Southern International Competition in 1996. Since then, he has been honoured at various state, national, and international competitions, including the Phoenix Symphony Guilds Competition (USA) 1997, 3rd Horowitz International Piano Competition (Kiev, Ukraine) 1999, and MTNA Chamber Music Competition (USA) 2002. He has performed in many prestigious concert halls including Carnegie Hall, Steinway Hall in New York, Rose Hall of Lincoln Center, Sprague Hall and Woolsey Hall of Yale University, and Paul Hall of Juilliard School.

As a chamber musician, Liu has featured alongside other world-class musicians such as cellist Jian Wang, clarinetist David Shifrin, flutist Ransom Wilson, Boston Symphony Orchestra cellist Alexandre Lecarme, and Yale Department of Music violinist Sarita Kwok. In 2011, he performed four concerts with violinist Martin Riseley and flutist Alexa Still in Palmerston North, New Plymouth, Nelson, and Invercargill. In December 2012, Mr. Liu and cellist Inbal Megiddo performed at three universities in China, including the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing.

As an educator, Liu has given masterclasses and lectures at the Central Conservatory of Music, Qingdao University, Guiyang Normal University in China, School of the Arts in Singapore, Sydney Conservatorium in Australia, as well as at Wellesley College, East Carolina University, and Yale University in the United States. From 2008 to 2010, he served as the faculty collaborative pianist at the Yale School of Music, and appointed as an instructor at Yale Department of Music. Liu earned his Bachelor of Music in Piano and Bachelor of Science in Business from Arizona State University, as well as both Master of Music, Master of Musical Arts, and Doctor of Musical Arts from Yale School of Music. He joined the teaching staff at Te Kōkī, New Zealand School of Music in 2011.

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