NZDF

Service as Soldier and Musician Recognised in New Year Honours

Major Graham Hickman Army Director of Music
Major Graham Hickman Army Director of Music

31 December 2016

For 34 years Army Director of Music Major Graham Hickman has served New Zealand and the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) as both a soldier and musician, and his dedication and achievements have now been recognised by the award of the Distinguished Service Decoration (DSD) in the New Year Honours.

Under Major Hickman’s command and leadership the New Zealand Army Band has been recognised by the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo as one of the top tattoo acts in the world; and by the Basel International Tattoo as the best military marching band in the world.

Major Hickman said that the unexpected honour reflected the service and commitment of many people.

“I actually feel I’m accepting this honour on behalf of the entire Band, past and present. The current Band are an exceptional group of musicians, who consistently perform at an elite level, and I’m extremely privileged to lead them,” he said.

“However, we also owe a debt of gratitude to the musicians and leaders that came before us. Today’s Band stands on the shoulders of giants: those that developed and grew the Band over the past 50 years. We’ve also benefited from strong support from our military hierarchy. Both the Army and the NZDF encourage the unit to seek excellence, and have provided the environment for the Band to develop all these diverse musical ensembles, which in turn have earned national and international recognition.”

Major Hickman began his music career as a 14-year-old Territorial Force member of the Royal New Zealand Air Force Base Ohakea Band, and after finishing high school joined the New Zealand Army Band. Over the next 31 years he rose through the ranks, serving at various times as an instructor, Bandmaster, Officer Commanding the School of Music and now as Director of Music. In recent years he has led the Band on major international engagements including the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and 90th Birthday Celebrations, the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo, the Basel International Tattoo in Switzerland, the World Band Festival in Lucerne, the King of Tonga’s Coronation and the German War Graves Commission Tattoo in Bremen.

His latest challenge has been a campaign to have the Band recognised as a legitimate arts institution. One element of this took the form of a national tour in collaboration with the Royal New Zealand Ballet performing “Salute”, a Ministry of Culture and Heritage World War One 100th Commemoration Project. The ballet, featuring music by New Zealand composers Gareth Farr and Dwayne Bloomfield, brought into focus the service and sacrifice of our military forbears. This was the first time in the world a brass band had provided music for a national ballet company, proving to audiences and critics that brass bands are as “musical” as their orchestral peers.

The Chief of Defence Force, Lieutenant General Tim Keating, said that he was delighted with Major Hickman’s honour.
 
“It is very well-deserved. The Army Band is world-class, and is a cornerstone of many of our formal occasions. Its contributions are a source of great pleasure to the Defence Force,  and enjoyed by thousands of other New Zealanders every year. We’re very proud of it. Major Hickman has been the key to many of its recent successes and it’s great to see that recognised at this level,” he said.
 
Apart from his military career, Major Hickman has played a significant role in his local community as a tutor, administrator and musical director, including leading Woolston Brass to four back-to-back New Zealand championship titles from 2007, and to the inaugural Champion Band of Australasia title in 2008. He was named the Champion Conductor of New Zealand for four years from 2009 to 2012. He has also fostered the development of young musicians throughout the country as the musical director of several youth brass bands, including the National Youth Brass Band.

The Distinguished Service Decoration (DSD)

Major Graham Ross HICKMAN, RNZIR

Major Hickman has had a long and distinguished career as a musician and as a soldier, and his contribution to New Zealand and the Defence Force over the past 33 years reflects an extraordinary level of dedication and achievement.  Under his command and leadership the New Zealand Army Band has been recognised by the Edinburgh Military Tattoo as one of the top three tattoo acts in the world; and by the Basel International Tattoo as the best military marching band in the world.

Major Hickman began his music career as a 14 year-old Territorial Force member of the Royal New Zealand Air Force Base Ohakea Band and on graduation from High School joined the New Zealand Army Band.  Over the next 25 years he rose through the ranks serving at various times as an instructor, Bandmaster, Director of Music and Officer Commanding the School of Music.  In recent years he has led the Band on major international engagements to The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, The Edinburgh Military Tattoo, the World Band Festival in Lucerne, the King of Tonga’s Coronation and the German War Graves Commission Tattoo in Bremen.  His latest challenge, as well as enhancing the Band’s national entertainment and international marching reputations, has been a campaign to have the Band recognised as a legitimate arts institution.  This took the form of a national tour in collaboration with the Royal New Zealand Ballet performing “Salute”, a Ministry of Culture and Heritage World War One 100th Commemoration Project.  The ballet, featuring music by Gareth Farr and Dwayne Bloomfield brought into focus the service and sacrifice of our military forbears.  This was the first time in the world a brass band had provided music for a ballet, proving to audiences and critics that brass bands are as ‘musical’ as their orchestral peers.

Within the local community, he has undertaken a parallel and largely unremunerated career as a tutor, administrator and musical director.  He was Musical Director of the Palmerston North Brass from 1993 to 1997, Canterbury Youth Band from 1995 to 1997, Addington Brass from 1997 to 2000 and Woolston Brass from 2006 to 2014.  He led Woolston Brass to four back-to-back New Zealand Championship titles from 2007, to the Inaugural Band of Australasia title in 2008, and was the Champion Conductor of New Zealand for four years from 2009 to 2012.  He has also made a major voluntary contribution to youth music on the national stage over a similar period of time, influencing and fostering the development of a generation of young musicians throughout the country.  In 2008 and 2009 he was Musical Director of the National Secondary Schools Brass Band and from 2010 to 2012 held the same position with the National Youth Brass Band.  Major Hickman continues to serve in the New Zealand Defence Force and maintains his involvement in a wide range of music and education-related organisations and trusts.

This page was last reviewed on 22 December 2016, and is current.