Collaborative Pianists

2021 String Competition Prize Winners
Photo Credit: Adrian Malloch

SARAH WATKINS

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SARAH WATKINS

Sarah’s passion for accompanying and chamber music has led to an impressive and busy career as a collaborative pianist. She performed across Australia, Asia, the USA and Europe as a founding member of NZTrio, and now enjoys a wide variety of collaborations with musicians throughout Aotearoa.

 

A three-time winner of Classical Artist of the Year at the Aotearoa Music Awards (most recently with Robert Ashworth in 2022, and Andrew Beer in 2020), Sarah has been an official pianist for the Michael Hill International Violin Competition since its inception in 2001 and regularly appears as a freelance player in the Auckland Philharmonia. In 2014 Sarah recorded Chris Watson’s SOUNZ Contemporary Award-winning “sing songs self” for solo piano and orchestra with the NZSO.

 

Sarah is a graduate of the University of Canterbury (NZ) and went on to earn both MM and DMA degrees from the Juilliard School (NY). She was recently appointed Senior Lecturer in piano at the University of Auckland.

GRACIE FRANCIS

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GRACIE FRANCIS

Gracie Francis is a C. V. Starr Doctoral Fellow in Collaborative Piano at The Juilliard School in New York, studying with the support of the Kiwi Music and Kia Ora Foundation Patricia Pratt Scholarships. She has served the Juilliard community as a Community Service Fellow, Student Congress representative, and Diversity Advocate, and now acts as a History Department teaching assistant, Vocal Arts staff pianist, and violin studio pianist for Catherine Cho and Areta Zhulla (Juilliard String Quartet).

 

Since moving to the US, Gracie has won Juilliard’s Vocal Arts Honors Recital three times, with 1st prize recitals at Alice Tully Hall. She performs regularly with bass-baritone William Socolof, including his prize-winning performances in the Young Concert Artists Auditions and Naumburg Competition, and has participated twice in Carnegie Hall’s SongStudio with Renée Fleming. Last summer she was a Vocal Piano Fellow at the Tanglewood Music Center, and in the 2022 summer was a staff pianist for Spoleto Festival USA in Charleston and a coach at Berlin Opera Academy. This summer she was a resident artist at the Académie du Festival d’Aix in Provence, France.

 

At home in New Zealand, Gracie was the Assistant Director of GALS (Gay and Lesbian Singers), a répétiteur for New Zealand Opera, and a mentor and educator for Opera Factory and the Auckland Youth Choir, with whom she performed at Carnegie Hall in 2016. She also spent nine years as a choir director and teacher (piano, chamber music and harpsichord) in high schools.

 

Gracie received her Bachelor of Music (Honors in Solo Piano) in 2014 under Rae de Lisle at the University of Auckland, and gave professional concerto debuts as a soloist (piano and harpsichord) during her studies. As a Fulbright Scholar and Kovner Fellow, she completed her Master’s (Vocal Piano) at Juilliard in 2021.