Justine playing in the spotlight

Dr Justine Cormack: Violinist

My performing career so far…

Freelance Violinist

At this point in my career, I am deriving great artistic fulfilment performing as soloist, chamber musician and guest-concertmaster with a broad variety of my favourite musicians and ensembles.

In October 2021, I launched  At the World’s Edge Festival (AWE Festival) with London-based kiwi violinist Benjamin Baker, fulfilling a long-held dream to create a chamber music festival within the stunning landscapes of New Zealand’s Queenstown Lakes. Performing with leading international chamber musicians from around the globe is now an annual performing highlight for me each October.

A significant project this decade has involved the rare privilege of performing two complete cycles of Beethoven’s ten violin and piano sonatas with pianist Kate Boyd.

In February 2020 we performed our first cycle in my gorgeous Central Otago neighbourhood, performing all ten sonatas over just three days. Three years passed before we were able to repeat the cycle in the Northern Hemisphere as originally planned, delayed due to covid disruptions. Our second perfomance of the cycle took place at Butler University, Indianapolis in January 2023.

Violinist of NZTrio

From 2002 to mid-2017, I was a founding member and violinist of NZTrio, performing throughout New Zealand, Australia, Asia, South America, the USA, Europe and Scandinavia.

We collaborated broadly across the arts spectrum working with animated film (David Downes, 2009), contemporary dance (New Zealand Dance Company, 2012/2013), theatre (Massive Company, 2013), voice (tenor Simon O’Neill, 2016), as well as cross-cultural musical works with masters of Maori taonga puoro, Chinese guzheng, and Cambodian traditional instruments.

Later highlights were a New Zealand tour of Messiaen’s Quartet for the End of Time with UK clarinetist Julian Bliss (2016) and a significant cross-cultural project recording nine new piano trios by Chinese composers in China.

I am hugely proud of the legacy NZTrio built during my 15 years with the ensemble. We commissioned and performed close to 40 works from NZ composers and showcased these compositions within diverse programmes on the world stage. At my final performance with NZTrio, we were awarded the Lilburn Trust Citation for Outstanding Services to New Zealand Music. You can watch some live performances and listen to recording excerpts of NZTrio on this website.

Justine Cormack Sitting in funky World Pants

Recording Artist

An active recording artist, some recent highlights have been the highly acclaimed commercial release of Douglas Lilburn’s Piano and Violin Duos with New Zealand’s celebrated pianist Michael Houstoun and the Radio NZ recording of Chris Watson’s ogee – for solo violin and orchestra with the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra (subsequently nominated as a finalist for the 2019 SOUNZ Contemporary Award).

While with NZTrio, we released seven commercial recordings and were nominated on a number of occasions for best classical album as well as best Jazz album in the Vodafone NZ Music Awards – for Vicissitudes with the Mick Nock Trio. In 2017, NZTrio was awarded Best Classical Artist for the Rattle release of Sway.

I am still proud of the first commercial album I released with pianist Sarah Watkins Colours of Change, featuring fabulous sonatas by Janáček, Bartok and Debussy. Recorded in 1999, this recording is currently being converted to high-quality downloadable files, coming soon.

Concertmaster and Judge

Prior to NZTrio, I was the Concertmaster of the Auckland Philharmonia and regularly featured as soloist for five seasons from 2000-2004. During this time, I also acted on the international judging panel of the first four Michael Hill International Violin Competitions. Previous to my Concertmaster role in Auckland, I was sub-principal first violinist of the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra during the 1990s.

Tertiary Qualifications and Teaching

A graduate of the University of Canterbury, I have a Masters degree from San Francisco Conservatory and a Doctoral degree from Stony Brook in New York. I have taught violin at Wellington’s Victoria University and also held a position as Violin Lecturer at The University of Auckland. I maintain a private teaching studio and more and more I am using online technology to teach and coach people around the world.

My Violin

My instrument and partner in play is a gorgeous 1868 J.B.Vuillaume violin.