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Heleen DuPlessis profile photo

Senior Lecturer of Cello and of Music Performance and Pedagogy
DMA(Otago) in cello performance, Graduate Performance Diploma (Peabody Institute, John Hopkins), Recital Diploma (Conservatoire De Musique de Genève), BMus(Hons) (Pretoria), BMus ed University of the Northwest, LRSM (piano), LUSA (cello).

Joined the staff in 2010

Tel +64 3 479 4001

Research and teaching expertise

  • Cello performance
  • Performing and recording of music from all time periods, including contemporary music from South Africa & New Zealand in the role of:
    - Soloist with orchestra
    - Soloist in recitals
    - Cellist in chamber music recitals
    - Principal/leading cellist/director in orchestras and cello ensembles
  • Pedagogy of music performance, cello technique, piano, and chamber music/music education
  • Biomechanics of movement and posture, muscular awareness and control in skill development of performers for enhancing optimum freedom of expression, prevention and recovery of performance related injury/pain and implications for teaching methods informed by science and technology. Based on research using Surface Electromyographic analysis (SEMG)
  • Music performance, identity and place and a sense of place, performer-composer collaboration in research-based practice projects commissioning, performing, and recording of new works by New Zealand and South African composers in, “Cello for Africa”, “Cellists Aotearoa” and “Tahu-nui-ā-rangi”.
  • Research-based practice, practice-based research, performance as research, autoethnography

Community Activities

  • Cellists of Otago director, concert leader and soloist of cello ensemble (
  • Principal cellist, Dunedin Symphony Orchestra
  • Cello section coach Dunedin Youth Orchestra
  • Chamber music coach for groups in NZCT Chamber Music Contest
  • Master classes and workshops in cello/chamber music/pedagogy of music teaching/ movement education
  • Public speaker on music performance, movement, and learning and teaching (music)
  • Adjudicator on national music competition panels and external examinator

Heleen's research and performances focus on music's ability and purpose to communicate meaning and connection.Her playing is therefore often described as "enthralling", "moving", with "intense richness, warmth of tone and heartfelt passion".

She integrates a scientific and technology informed approach to music making, bringing together her knowledge of how we learn, how we teach, how we move, to play with freedom of expression. She applies her 10-year study into the biomechanics of posture and movement using Electromyographic analyses to prevent and reduce tension and pain and uses it in her teaching to accelerate understanding, awareness, and control of movement.

As teacher she is inspirational, passionate, and knowledgeable. Students' feedback include: "Heleen's clear love for the cello is infectious and leaves me feeling freshly enthused after each and every lesson"; "a fantastic, inspirational teacher"; "an immense knowledge of the cello and pedagogy which she shares with us to help us improve as cellists, musicians, and people". "She has created a supportive and nurturing environment in lessons and the cello class which has enabled us to play with confidence and enjoyment".


du Plessis, H. (cello) (2019). Duo Col Legno: Chamber Music New Zealand Regional Tour, with Yoshiko Tsuruta on Marimba, works by Tchaikovsky, Beall, Japanese traditionals, Farr, Pärt, Fauré, Ourkouzounov, and Klatzow, Eastern Southland Gallery, Lake Wanaka Centre, Oamaru Opera House, Prince Edward Auditorium, St Andrew's Church Hall, Turner Centre, Warkworth Town Hall, Tauranga Park Auditorium, and Prices Gate Hotel, Gore, Wanaka, Oamaru, Whanganui, Gisborne, Kerikeri, Warkworth, Tauranga, Rotorua, New Zealand. [Performance].

du Plessis, H. (2013). Cello for Africa. Auckland, New Zealand: Ode Records. [Film/Digital Recording/CD-Rom].

du Plessis, H. (cello, soloist) (2013, 19 March). Concerto for an African Cellist (19 March), with Hans Huyssen (conductor), Magda de Vries (marimba) and Malcolm Nay (piano), works by Klatzow, Pärt, Huyssen & Britten, Odeion, Bloemfontein, South Africa. [Performance].

du Plessis, H. (cello, producer) (2019, 4 May). Tahu-nui-ā-Rangi, for cello and marimba, by Gareth Farr (composer), with Yoshiko Tsuruta (marimba), world premier of multi-sensory production with imagery by Ian Griffen and Pieter du Plessis, Planetarium of the Otago Museum, Dunedin, New Zealand. [Performance].

du Plessis, H. (2015). Cello for Africa (DMA). University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand.

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