Robin Toan is one of New Zealand’s leading young composers. She writes music for orchestra, chamber, solo and film. Robin started composing at the age of 15 while she was at high school. She graduated from the University of Auckland with a Bachelor of Music degree in composition and performance clarinet in 2004. In 2005 she achieved first class honours in composition at the University of Auckland studying under John Elmsly and Eve de Castro-Robinson. At 24 years of age, she has recently completed her Master of Music degree under the supervision of John Psathas at the New Zealand School of Music.
In 2007 Robin travelled to Europe to further her studies in composition with the support of the Edwin Carr Foundation Scholarship and the inaugural New Zealand Australasian Performing Rights Association Professional Development Award. She had tuition Nicola LeFanu, Roger Marsh, Dieter Mack and Dorothy Ker. Robin also attended numerous concerts and festivals.
With the assistance of the New Zealand/France Friendship Fund Robin travelled to Paris to attend rehearsals and the premiere concert of a new work, dans la nuit, for string orchestra in November and December 2006. Also in 2006, Robin received the 2006 SOUNZ Community Commission to write a fanfare for the Manukau City Symphony Orchestra which was premiered in December 2007. She was also commissioned by Chamber Music New Zealand to write a work for John Chen and Julia McCarthy’s 16 concert tour of New Zealand in September and October 2007. Robin was the winner of the ADAM International Cello Competition Young Composers Competition. Her composition Games was a requirement in the competition repertoire. Robin also wrote the music for the short film ‘Loose Ends’ which premiered at the Auckland International Film Festival in July. Her composition, Turista di Venezia was selected for the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra Graduate Workshop. She was also the joint recipient of the TODD/NZSO Corporation Young Composers Awards in Wellington with her work, La Sagrada Familia.
In 2005, Robin gained international recognition in the Frederic Mompou International Award for the Young Composer Competition of the Joventuts Musicals de Barcelona, 2005 receiving an Honorific Mention Award for her sextet Barcelona Postcards. Robin was named the inaugural composer-in-residence of the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra National Youth Orchestra after composing Tu-mata-uenga God of War, Spirit of Man.
In 2004 she won the Philip Neill Memorial Prize from the University of Otago with Maze written for two percussionists and piano. This competition was open to all composers who have attended a New Zealand university. Also in 2004 Robin was commissioned by the Opus Chamber Orchestra to compose new work, Opus 101, for their May concert series. The New Zealand based contemporary ensemble 175 East performed Robin’s piece, Sunshine Jam following their call for new microscores in 2004. She had performances of Comic in 2004 and Rainbows ‘n’ Butterflies in 2005 for the Howick School of Music Youth Orchestra. In the same year Robin won the University of Auckland Douglas Lilburn Composition Prize in the acoustic and electronic categories. In the acoustic category she wrote Violaceous for solo violin and in the electronic category, Intergalactic Busking Experience. In 2001, 2002 and 2003 Robin was awarded second place in this competition for acoustic works Catastrophe!, Lament, and Shades of Flamenco. She also won the University of Auckland Douglas Mews Prize for Best Unaccompanied Choral Composition in 2003 and 2004 with Takapuna Beach and Scenes from Provence. These pieces were also awarded the runner-up prizes in the New Zealand Secondary Schools Choir Choral Composition Competition. She also received the Llewellyn Jones Prize for music for piano in 2002 with Life, as I see it and the University of Auckland Bishop Scholarship for best stage one composition student in 2001.
While still at high school Robin won the Auckland Philharmonia Young Composer’s Competition with ‘Over the Rubicon’ in 2000. She was also runner-up in the KBB/175 East Composition Competition with ‘Rionic’.Source: Robin Toan, September 2007