The New Zealand Symphony Orchestra’s new chief executive Peter Biggs. PHOTO/NZSO

KAREN COLTMAN
karen.coltman@age.co.nz

Featherston’s Peter Biggs, known to all as ‘Biggsy’, has taken on the top job at the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra during “complex times”.

The new chief executive said it was “wonderful to have the job and it is an enormous privilege”.

Biggs joined the NZSO board in 2014 but was asked to step in as interim chief executive when the previous chief retired late last year.

He thought he was just keeping the seat warm but was appointed the permanent CE two weeks’ ago.

Biggs was previously a board member of the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra.

He was in Australia as CE of the Australian marketing and advertising company, Clemenger. More recently he has been running the highly successful Featherston Booktown with his wife Mary and a board.

Biggs said the NZSO was a world class orchestra that is “ruthless about recruiting the best talent and the orchestra has a toughness and discipline that makes it great”.

“The orchestra members have a kiwi attitude that is humble and generous, and this has shown through during covid-19,” Biggs said.

“I feel that during the covid-19 crisis, unlike disasters such as earthquakes and fires which bring people together, the crisis pulled people apart. But the music of the orchestra was a way for us to bring people back together again.”

NZSO played during the covid-19 lockdown from each member’s dwellings and created video/audio concerts that were streamed on its Facebook page.

Biggs never saw the job coming but said he grabs opportunities when he sees them.

“I don’t plan much in my life. I just look and see what is there and grab what comes.”

He believes American poet Mary Oliver’s approach to life matches his. She wrote: “I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.”

He is now in planning and budgeting meetings with the NZSO executive team and board as they work towards the 2021 schedule and get some certainty for the orchestra going into the rest of the year.

The orchestra’s last live performance before lockdown was at the Carterton Events Centre on March 4. It performed JS Bach’s Goldberg Variations to a packed house.

All international conductors and performers who were scheduled to come to New Zealand to work and perform with the orchestra have been cancelled until August 1.

The NZSO Board is authorised by the Arts Culture and Heritage Associate Minister, Carmel Sepuloni, to manage the business of the NZSO.

Day-to-day operational authority is delegated to the CE – Biggsy.