Brent Stewart is a leading musical figure in New Zealand, working as a conductor, percussionist, pianist, and teacher.
Since 2014, Brent has been Music Director of New Zealand's premier symphonic choir, Orpheus Choir Wellington. Under Brent's direction, Orpheus has consistently presented dramatic, spectacular, and emotionally charged performances of stunning choral music, including Vaughan-Williams' A Sea Symphony, Orff's Carmina Burana, Bernstein's Chichester Psalms, and Mozart's Requiem. Orpheus now regularly sells out their subscription series and regularly performs with Orchestra Wellington and the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra.
Brent Stewart was appointed Music Director of the Hutt Valley Orchestra in 2007. A concert that included Rachmaninoff's 3rd Piano Concerto paired with Mascagni's one-act opera, Cavalleria Rusticana, illustrates his eclectic and adventurous programming. During his decade as Music Director of Hutt Valley Orchestra, Brent conducted ten symphonic workshops where participants from across New Zealand came together to tackle notable repertoire. Works in this context have included Shostakovich's 5th Symphony, Beethoven's 9th Symphony, Holst's The Planets, and Mahler's 1st Symphony.
Brent has also conducted programmes with the Kapiti Concert Orchestra, Wellington Chamber Orchestra, and more recently with St Matthew's Chamber Orchestra and Christchurch Symphony Orchestra. Orchestra Wellington also regularly engages Brent to conduct significant projects each year. Brent was appointed as Orchestra Wellington's first intern assistant conductor under Marc Taddei in 2012.
Passionate for musicals and operas, Brent's musical directorship highlights include Beauty and the Beast, Cavalleria Rusticana, Chicago, Les Misérables, My Fair Lady, South Pacific, and West Side Story. This year, Brent is directing the NZ premiere of Lucy Mulgan's opera, Red, in collaboration with Orchestra Wellington and New Zealand Opera.
Other conducting projects include conducting the annual Counsel in Concert event, a fundraiser for the Child Cancer Foundation with players from the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra and Orchestra Wellington accompanying a choir made up of law staff from Crown Law.
In demand as a percussionist, Brent is Orchestra Wellington's Principal Percussionist and has undertaken freelance work with the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra, Dunedin Symphony Orchestra, and currently the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra. Other projects include twice travelling to Tokyo, Japan, to perform in a season of The Phantom of the Opera as Principal Percussion.
Brent works closely with New Zealand composers and has premiered many new percussion, orchestral, and choral works to critical acclaim. In 2007, he premiered Karlo Margetic's Xylophone concerto accompanied by the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra. In the following year, Brent recorded the same work with the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra.
Also in demand as a pianist, Brent has been the assistant director and pianist for the New Zealand Secondary Students' Choir since 2013. Since that time, the choir, auditioned every two years, has produced four albums and has toured throughout NZ and overseas, including Canada, Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong, and China. Brent has also accompanied at the Gisborne International Music Competition and the National Concerto Competition in Christchurch with the award-winning marimba soloist Yoshiko Tsuruta. Another highlight includes playing the piano for the Christchurch City Choir alongside the New Zealand Secondary Students' Choir in preparation for their performance of Britten's War Requiem with Christchurch Symphony Orchestra's Chief Conductor, Benjamin Northey.
Brent was Head of Music at Wellington East Girls' College from 2010-2020. In 2012, he led a school choir, Cantala, on an international tour through Singapore, London, Paris, and Vienna. In Vienna, Cantala won 1st place at the Summa Cum Laude Youth International Music Festival. In 2015 Cantala travelled to China alongside the Wellington College Chorale. Wellington East Girls' College now sends the most students from any school in NZ, almost 500, to The Big Sing festival each year.
On top of his work as a conductor, percussionist and pianist, Brent currently directs the filming of the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra's live streams, and is working as a producer on major recording projects, including Claire Cowan's ballet, Hansel and Gretel.