2018 Art Music Awards Winners Announced

Tuesday, 21 Aug 2018

The recipients of the 2018 Art Music Awards have been revealed across 11 national and eight state/territory categories. A gala event honouring Australia’s finest art music composers, from the genres of contemporary classical music, jazz, experimental music and sound art, was held at Melbourne’s Plaza Ballroom on Tuesday evening.

In its 8th year, the Art Music Awards is the only national event in Australia to acknowledge the extraordinary achievements and creative successes of individuals and organisations who continue to champion Australian art music in diverse contexts both at home and overseas.

The Vocal/Choral Work of the Year winner is composer Mary Finsterer for her critically acclaimed opera Biographica, about 16th-century Italian inventor, philosopher and gambler Gerolamo Cardano. Premiering at Sydney Festival in 2017, the work was performed by Sydney Chamber Opera and Ensemble Offspring, conducted by Jack Symonds.

Matthew Sheens received the Jazz Work of the Year award for American Counterpoint, performed with Lyndon Gray, Myele Manzanza and Zephyr String Quartet. The work is a musical reflection on the horrific 2016 Pulse Nightclub shooting in Orlando, Florida, and a commentary on topical issues particularly in the USA where Sheens currently resides. The award for Excellence in Jazz went to saxophonist and composer Sandy Evans OAM for rockpoolmirror, a suite of musical responses to the photography of Tall Poppies Records founder Belinda Webster.

The Instrumental Work of the Year was awarded to Lisa Illean for her large ensemble work, Cantor (after Willa Cather). Commissioned and initially performed by Ensemble Offspring, and funded through the APRA Art Music Fund in its inaugural year, the work has been performed by a number of ensembles worldwide.

The Orchestral Work of the Year winner is composer Paul Stanhope, for Concerto for Trombone and Orchestra, written for and performed by the West Australian Symphony Orchestra, Joshua Davis (trombone) and conducted by Asher Fisch. A serial finalist of the Art Music Awards, Paul is one of the leading figures in his generation of Australian composers, with performances of his works all over the world.

Chicago-based contemporary chamber ensemble Eighth Blackbird is the recipient of the Performance of the Year award for Lobster Tales and Turtle Soup, by young Australian composer Holly Harrison.

Tura New Music received the award for Excellence by an Organisation in recognition of their 30-year contribution to Australian art music and the sonic arts, presenting and promoting to local, regional, national and international audiences. One of Australia’s best-known composers, Carl Vine AO, is the recipient of the award for Excellence by an Individual. Throughout 2017, his works were performed around the country and internationally. He is also acknowledged as a mentor, as well as for his artistic direction of Musica Viva.

Young Music Society Inc. (ACT) is the recipient of the award for Excellence in Music Education, acknowledging a significant 50-year commitment to and development of Australian music, by providing access to music for young people. The Society has been the launching pad for many of Australia’s leading musicians, composers and professional artists.

The award for Excellence in a Regional Area has gone to Big hART for Acoustic Life of Sheds, which celebrated these spaces, located in regional Tasmania, by repurposing them as instruments or sound-shells, with input from leading composers and musicians working with local community groups.  

Chamber Made is the recipient of the award for Excellence in Experimental Music for Between 8 and 9 (Chengdu Teahouse Project), a contemporary performance installation and collaboration between Chamber Made artists and those from the Sichuan Conservatory of Music in Chengdu. 

The award for Distinguished Services to Australian Music (as determined by the APRA Board of Writer and Publisher Directors) was presented to Canberra-based curator, academic and musicologist, Robyn Holmes. With a career spanning over 40 years, her driving purpose has been to preserve, collect and communicate Australia’s artistic legacy, particularly in her long-term position as Senior Curator of the National Library of Australia.

The 2018 Art Music Awards, staged jointly by APRA AMCOS and the Australian Music Centre (AMC), were hosted by Jonathan Biggins; presenters included outgoing Chief Executive Officer of the Australia Council for the Arts, Tony Grybowski, composers Liza Lim, Tony Gould and Deborah Cheetham AO, and human rights and refugee advocate, Julian Burnside AO QC.

Musical performances curated by Gabriella Smart included Sandy Evans performing with Bobby Singh and Adrian Sherriff; the choir Hallelujah Junction conducted by Jonathan Grieves-Smith; 2018 Art Music Awards finalist Matthew Horsley on Uilleann pipes accompanied by electronics; Melbourne pianist Timothy Young and cellist Svetlana Bogosavljevic performing a Musica Viva commission from young South Australian composer Jakub Jankowski; and a performance by the Titjikala Women’s Choir of a work composed by Gabriella Smart, following her involvement with ‘The Titjikala Project’.

APRA AMCOS and the AMC congratulate all the 2018 Art Music Awards winners on their outstanding achievements.


Vocal/Choral Work of the Year 

Title:                   Biographica

Composer:         Mary Finsterer; libretto by Tom Wright

Performed by:    Sydney Chamber Opera, Ensemble Offspring with Jack Symonds (conductor)

Jazz Work of the Year 

Title:                            American Counterpoint

Composers:                Matthew Sheens

Performer:                  Matthew Sheens, Lyndon Gray, Myele Manzana, and Zephyr String Quartet

Instrumental Work of the Year 

Title:                            Cantor (after Willa Cather)

Composers:                Lisa Illean

Performer:                  Ensemble Offspring

Orchestral Work of the Year 

Title:                            Concerto for Trombone and Orchestra

Composers:                Paul Stanhope

Performer:                  Joshua Davis (trombone), West Australian Symphony Orchestra with Asher Fisch (conductor)

Performance of the Year 

Performer:                 Eighth Blackbird

Title:                           Lobster Tales and Turtle Soup

Composer:                 Holly Harrison

Award for Excellence by an Organisation

Tura New Music for 30 years of presenting, producing, commissioning, exhibiting, publishing, advocating and supporting Australian art music

Award for Excellence by an Individual

Carl Vine AO for 2017 activites

Award for Excellence in Music Education

Young Music Society Inc. (ACT) for 50 years of community youth music activity

Award for Excellence in a Regional Area

Big hART for Acoustic Life of Sheds

Award for Excellence in Experimental Music

Chamber Made for Between 8 and 9 (Chengdu Teahouse Project)

Award for Excellence in Jazz

Sandy Evans for rockpoolmirror


NSW State Award for Excellence in a Regional Area
Tyalgum Music Festival for the 2017 Tyalgum Music Festival

QLD Award for Excellence in Experimental Music
Vanessa Tomlinson, Leah Barclay and John Ferguson for 100 Ways to Listen

SA Award for Vocal/Choral Work of the Year
Anne Cawrse for On Earth as in Heaven

TAS Award for Orchestral Work of the Year
Maria Grenfell for Spirals for clarinet, bassoon and chamber orchestra

VIC Award for Excellence by an Organisation
Move Records for 50 years of recording and release of new music

WA Award for Performance of the Year
Louise Devenish, Leah Scholes and Vanessa Tomlinson for Never Tilt Your Chair Back by Kate Neal

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