The combination of youth and talent is a very potent thing. We admire those who strive to achieve high standards and are prepared to put themselves on the line to be judged. All in all, it is human nature to love a good competition. So it is not surprising that the Lexus Song Quest (formerly the Mobil Song Quest) has been so popular since it started over 50 years ago.

1,324 singers entered the first Mobil Song Quest in 1956 – a nation-wide radio contest. Each singer went into their local radio station, recorded a ballad in English and their efforts were serialized into 19 weeks of radio programmes. By all accounts it was riveting radio and a nation-wide interest swiftly grew in finding New Zealand’s best young singers.

As society changed, so did the competition. Ensembles and Gilbert & Sullivan sections were some of the developments that were rather short-lived, but the influence of one singing teacher in Auckland, Sister Mary Leo, and the success of many of her students, helped to shape the competition into a more serious and perhaps more sought after prize. Input from some of the international judges has also helped to shape the competition into what it is today.

In 2005, nearly 50 years later, 61 young singers entered the first Lexus Song Quest – a much more challenging competition. They had to prepare a wide-ranging programme of classical music in three languages. Over time, the competition has become far more focused in its objectives and so probably have the singers. They have been inspired by the achievements of those who have gone before them – not only by the impressive list of winners and their international careers, but by the many finalists and place-getters who have laid the foundations of strong vocal teaching and performance within New Zealand.

Now managed by the New Zealand Festival, the Lexus Song Quest is presented in an era of professionalism in the arts industry. Orchestras, opera companies and festivals around the country are all potential employers of the finalists. To be successful in the final of the Lexus Song Quest opens the door for the best to join the recent winners of the Quest, such as Teddy Tahu Rhodes,  Jonathan Lemalu, Madeleine Pierard, and Amitai Pati.

The 2016 Lexus Song Quest winner was baritone Benson Wilson, who is currently studying at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London.



Watch the 2018 Lexus Song Quest highlights video

Listen to pianist Terence Dennis talk about his long involvement with the Lexus Song Quest competition with Radio New Zealand Concert.

Listen back to previous Lexus Song Quest concerts


Previous Winners

  • 2018 Joel Amosa
  • 2016 Benson Wilson
  • 2014 Isabella Moore
  • 2012 Amitai Pati
  • 2009 Aivale Cole
  • 2007 Phillip Rhodes
  • 2005 Madeleine Pierard
  • 2002 Anna Leese
  • 2000 Jared Holt
  • 1998 Jonathan Lemalu

  • 1996 Andrea Creighton
  • 1993 Martin Snell
  • 1991 Teddy Tahu Rhodes
  • 1989 Tracey King
  • 1987 Deirdre Elliot
  • 1985 Robyn Lynch
  • 1983 David Griffiths
  • 1981 Linden Loader
  • 1979 Malcolm Smith
  • 1977 Lyle Kennaway

  • 1974 Christopher Lackner
  • 1972 Christopher Doig
  • 1970 Patricia House
  • 1967 Anne Rasmussen
  • 1965 Kiri Te Kanawa
  • 1963 Malvina Major
  • 1961 Patricia Price
  • 1959 Mary O’Brien
  • 1957 Paul Gilmore
  • 1956 Donald Jack