Throwback Thursday: Nelson School of Music


The Nelson School of Music was founded in 1894 and is the oldest independent school of music in New Zealand.

Herr Balling, a German conductor was the first principal however he remained principal for only two short years, returning to Germany in 1896.

Since it’s first principal, the school has survived two world wars, the Murchison earthquake and the great depression.

In 1915 when World War One was raging, german-born Nelson School of Music principal Julius Bernhardt Lemmer even considered resigning, not wanting his association with Germany to handicap the school. However, the Board of Trustees decided that he was too much of a musical asset and convinced him to stay.


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The start of the school’s structural issues began in 1929 with the Murchison Earthquake cracking open the school’s plastering.

Though at the time, staff were reassured the school was well built by experts, the building doesn’t meet current specifications and is undergoing a rebuild.

1929 was also a hard year for the school with the ushering in of the Great Depression, school support dwindled with the student roll dropping from 246 to 208 by 1932.

Today the Nelson School of Music buildings are being rebuilt to ensure they are structually safe in an earthquake.

The school is still running a popular concert venue and a centre of music, attracting musicians and teachers from across the globe.