Luka Venter is a composer, conductor, and vocalist based in Te Whanganui-a-Tara / Wellington.
As a conductor and vocalist, the inherent physicality of instrumental and vocal performance is fundamental to his creative practice. His work often explores the interconnections and oppositions of body, text, historicism, modernity, the sheer lustre of sound, and ideas of social responsibility.
By exploring the frictive edge where seemingly opposing states of being connect, his music often involves heightened states of being where sheer sonic beauty and the physicality of performance are exploited to create music that is by turns luminous and visceral.
Luka has twice been a finalist in the NZSO Todd Corporation Young Composer Award (2018, 2019), and in 2018 was the Overall Winner for his work, Primeval Light. His work ts’onot, a finalist in 2019, was subsequently publicly premièred by the NZSM Orchestra under his own direction. He has also been a finalist in the Lilburn Trust NZSM Composer Competition (2017), and participated in workshops with the New Zealand String Quartet.
He is also in regular demand as a composer of vocal works, including commissions by the Metropolitan Cathedral of the Sacred Heart, and Wellington-based period ensemble, The Night Watch, with whom he collaborated on a new work for countertenor Stephen Diaz (2020).
As a conductor, Luka is currently the Assistant Conductor of Orchestra Wellington and one of four conductors in the inaugural conducting intake of the NZSO Fellowship Programme, receiving mentorship and training from Hamish McKeich, Holly Mathieson, and Miguel Harth-Bedoya. He has also trained online with Neeme Järvi, Baldur Brönnimann, and Sarah Ioannides, and enjoys a close relationship with Wellington’s SMP Ensemble.
In 2018, he was awarded a number of grants from the New Zealand Opera Foundation Trust, Wallace Foundation, Lankhuyzen/Whetu-Kairangi Masonic Trust, and the Todd Trust which supported him travel to Florence, London, and to Berlin where he was a Visiting Scholar with the Mahler Chamber Orchestra under Sir George Benjamin.
While in Berlin and London, he also shadowed conductors including Simone Young, Matthias Pintscher, François-Xavier Roth, Sir Simon Rattle, Esa-Pekka Salonen, and Sir Antonio Pappano in rehearsals with the Staatsoper Unter den Linden, Ensemble Intercontemporain, the Berliner Philharmoniker, London Symphony Orchestra, Philharmonia Orchestra, and the Royal Opera House Covent Garden. He was also an auditor at the Florence Conducting Masterclass under Günter Neuhold.
As a vocalist, he sings regularly with Wellington Opera and New Zealand Opera, having appeared as a soloist as well as being a longstanding member of the Freemasons New Zealand Opera Chorus. He has also appeared as a soloist with Orchestra Wellington, Days Bay Opera, and has regularly been engaged to develop new operatic works, including Gareth Farr’s The Bone Feeder for the Auckland Arts Festival.
A graduate of Te Kōkī, the New Zealand School of Music and Victoria University, Luka studied composition under Michael Norris, Dugal McKinnon, and John Psathas, conducting under Hamish McKeich, and trained as a vocalist under Margaret Medlyn and Richard Greager. He also studied several modern and ancient languages, and trained as a writer through the International Institute of Modern Letters.