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Report: Minister’s Plate Finals

When the late Merv Wellington, as Minister of Education, officially opened the new Music Suite at Auckland Grammar School in 1984, he presented a silver plate which has become known as the Minister’s Plate. Two years later, the Amos family donated a similar plate establishing a Junior Award. The awards have become a traditional fixture in the School’s calendar and serve to recognise the achievements of the finest solo musicians at Grammar.

The awards were held on Wednesday 6 September in the Centennial Theatre and were judged this year by Old Boy and previous winner of the Minister’s Plate Ben Hoadley ’90. Ben holds degrees in bassoon performance from the Sydney Conservatorium of Music and the New England Conservatory in Boston, as well as a Masters of Music in composition with First Class Honours from the University of Waikato where he was awarded the Lilburn Composition Prize. He has held fellowships to the Australian National Academy of Music, Tanglewood Music Centre and the Weill Music Institute at Carnegie Hall, has tutored at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music since 2019 and he is the principal bassoonist with the Canberra Symphony Orchestra.

With Prefect S. T. Manning as the Master of Ceremonies, the 2023 finalists produced a diverse range of instruments and genres. The standard was extremely high, with Ben saying that, in all his experience of the competition, this year has produced the highest standard he has witnessed. Ben addressed each finalist individually, describing what he liked about their performances and offered encouraging advice that he felt could lead to improvements.

The Junior Music Plate winner was Form 3 student S. Xu playing the alto saxophone, performing Fantaisie by French composer J. Demersseman. This year’s Minister’s Plate winner was Form 7 student T. Yi (pictured above), also playing the alto saxophone, for his performance of San Felio by the Ukrainian composer V. Neselovskyi.

The competition was a superb evening of musical excellence and Ben’s expertise, encouragement and sincerity were warmly appreciated by all the finalists and the audience alike.