Gemma New's shooting star of a conducting career began when she rounded up some of the littler musical girls at Samuel Marsden Collegiate and became their conductor. Now she's assistant conductor of the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra, the American state's equivalent to the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, and she's just been named one of "30 brilliant musicians under 30" by Limelight magazine.
At the same time, United States classical music radio station WQXR has deemed her one of the top five women conductors on the rise.
These accolades, she says, came as nice surprises - "amazing to be acknowledged for my work and encouraged, and there were amazing people on those lists".
New, 27, is in Wellington as assistant conductor to Alexander Shelley for the NZSO National Youth Orchestra's concert on Friday. She has conducted a multitude of orchestras, including the Lunar Ensemble, which she directs and formed from fellow students when she was doing her masters in orchestral conducting course at the Peabody Conservatorium of Music, part of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.
It all began back in Wellington. New grew up in a family immersed in music. Her mother plays the violin for pleasure and her grandmother played professionally for a Scottish orchestra. Her second set of grandparents also loved music - "so I was surrounded by music as a kid and loved and appreciated it".
"I started learning the violin at five - some people start at three - and started in an orchestra at nine. There was a very good music programme at Marsden.