Richard Nunns

1959 to 1965

After Matamata College, Richard set off for Canterbury University where he completed his teacher training.  He briefly taught at Fairfield Intermediate (Hamilton) and then won a position at Fairfield College teaching English and Educational Drama.  Promotion saw him move to Melville College (Hamilton) and later Richard became Head of English at Nelson College for Girls.  Richard taught for 35 years before switching professions.

During his school days, his student years and later too, he was keenly interested in sports.  As well as playing rugby and being in the 1st XV for three years, Richard was the school swim champ for four years.  A record of Richard’s stood for many years and was only recently usurped.  During his years there, the college had a strong softball team.  The team won the Waikato division and Richard was selected to represent Waikato.  Also the school had a very competitive basketball team during Richard’s tenure, under the watchful eye of ex-HOD Physd and Deputy Principal Brian Bradley – himself a New Zealand representative.  Richard gained selection for the NZ Under 21 basketball squad.  Later Richard played provincial level basketball for Canterbury during his student years.

With a great interest in music Richard has now reached the top of his profession, is widely recognised and has received many accolades.

Richard Nunns is a living authority on nga taonga puoro (Maori traditional musical instruments). He has been described as one of New Zealand’s most remarkable musicians.

Richard has a long history of personal commitment to researching and presenting/ performing the traditional musical instruments of the Maori, and to organising this body of knowledge into a form which is immediately understandable to people in general, particularly Maori who have lost contact with such knowledge.

As well as his ethno-musicological expertise, since Richard first began public performances on taonga puoro (Maori musical instruments), he has developed an amazing international profile, both with the diversity of his recorded work, along with performing with a wide variety of people in many differing settings and circumstances.

Richard has had a number of performances of contemporary classical works, written specifically for him and his instruments, including performances with

  • New Zealand Symphony Orchestra 
  • New Zealand String Quartet. 

One of the most recent of these was Puhake ki te Rangi (Spouting to the skies) composed for Richard and the New Zealand String.

More recently Richard has been working in the electronica field, and has performed with the Australian Art Orchestra.

His improvisation work is truly cross cultural and has seen him performing with Performers from Iran, Australian Aboriginal, First Nation America, Korea, Bolivia, China, Turkey, Germany, Finland, Scotland – a global impact.

Richard has an Honorary Life Membership of the New Zealand Flute Association. His numerous honours and awards include:

2011   The Constance Scott Kirkcaldie Award for Outstanding Composer of Music in The Chapman Tripp Awards for “Hear to See”.

2011 The New Zealand String Quartet CD, Notes from a Journey, which includes He Poroporoaki composed by Gareth Farr and Richard Nunns, won the Best Classical Album in the New Zealand Music Awards.

In November 2009 Richard was honoured with the awarding of an Arts Foundation Laureate.

2009 Awarded A QSM for services to Taonga Puoro

2009, NZ Music Hall of Fame

Hirini Melbourne and Richard Nunns

“This is one of the most significant stories in New Zealand music — an instrumental tradition lost for more than a century but, against all odds, bought back to life. It’s an extraordinary story of extraordinary people. “These two and their achievements sit right alongside the icons of NZ music. Like Ray Columbus and the Invaders, Jordan Luck, the Topp Twins or Straitjacket Fits, Hirini and Richard’s achievements are long-lasting and hugely significant” 

2008  Doctorate of Music honoris causa, from Victoria University of Wellington.

Richard is in demand nationally and internationally as a keynote speaker.

Interestingly, Richard admits to not reading music well, but his intuitive ability has seen him reach great heights.


Richard’s siblings have also been very successful:  Brother Chris recently retired from a teaching career in Australia sister Katherine (Featherston) runs a successful business with her husband in Hamilton and Simon (profiled) is a wine maker.

2004 Awarded the Lilburn Citation for Outstanding Service to New Zealand Music.

2000 Composers’ Association of New Zealand Citation for Outstanding Service to New Zealand Music.