21 Jun 2023

RNZ Concert Host Leah Thomas wins Fulbright Graduate Award

From Three to Seven, 4:00 pm on 21 June 2023
Leah Thomas playing the clarinet

Leah Thomas Photo: Supplied

RNZ Concert host Leah Thomas is leaving for New York City after winning The Fulbright Scholarship Graduate Award to study a Master of Arts Management and Entrepreneurship at the New School. 

After graduating with a classical music performance degree in 2020, Leah Thomas began a classical music series called Pōneke Classical Sessions out of Wellington jazz bar The Rogue and Vagabond off Cuba Street. 

“When I graduated [during Covid] I knew it was going to be a while before I could go anywhere. I realised, me and my friends had lost a lot of work. One of the biggest things for young people in classical music is that orchestras have had to downsize and do smaller sized programmes”. 

The Poneke sessions were designed to bring classical music to new audiences in new spaces with a relaxed atmosphere. Since it started in Autumn of 2021 the series has hosted more than 100 musicians and introduced new audiences to classical music. 

Dual accessibility is key for Leah Thomas, as an event organiser she’s thought a lot about crossing genres like jazz and classical. Developing and collaborating on a music programme that has a more diverse audience attending. “It’s what everybody wants - an audience of young people at a classical music event”. 

Bryan Crump asked Leah Thomas how New Zealand will continue to make the classical arts sustainable without local or central government funding. 

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