A living authority on taonga puoru (Maori traditional instruments), Nunns has been described as one of New Zealand’s most remarkable musicians. His work with taonga puoru has received national and international recognition, and his thorough and sensitive research has provided a wealth of information around the sounds, history and stories of these taonga, ensuring their preservation for future generations. He is known nationally and internationally for his collaborations with the late Hirini Melbourne.
As well as his ethno-musicological expertise, Nunns has worked on a wide range of projects and musical styles including jazz and improvisation. He has performed a number of contemporary classical works, written specifically for him with the NZ Symphony Orchestra and the New Zealand String Quartet. One of the most recent of these was Puhake ki te rangi (Sprouting to the Skies) composed for Nunns and the New Zealand String Quartet by Gillian Whitehead while she was composer-in-residence at the Lilburn House in Wellington.
The Lilburn Trust is a charitable trust established by Douglas Lilburn in 1984 with the Alexander Turnbull Library Endowment Trust. It funds the Lilburn Trust Student Composer Awards at universities and for more than 20 years has supplied grants to performers, composers, authors, filmmakers, record companies and oral historians to help promote New Zealand’s musical arts, to advance musical knowledge and appreciation, and to preserve musical archives