Deborah Cheetham has been awarded the $60,000 Melbourne Prize for Music, which is presented to “an outstanding Victorian musician whose work demonstrates exceptional musicianship, skill and creativity”.

The Indigenous musician, who is a composer, a soprano and the Artistic Director of Short Black Opera, had a huge success earlier this year with her work Eumeralla, a war requiem for peace, presented by Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, where she is Composer in Residence in 2020. Her other works include the opera Pecan Summer and Dhungala Choral Connection Song Book.

Deborah Cheetham. Photograph © Simon Schluter

In June 2019 she received the Sir Bernard Heinze Memorial Award in recognition of her outstanding service to music. She has also been nominated for the Live Classical Act of the Year at the 2019 National Live Music Awards to be announced on December 4.

Cheetham is also a finalist in the Limelight Artists of the Year for 2019. Voting for the People’s Choice Awards closes at 11.59pm on December 5.

The Melbourne Prize Trust, which awards the Melbourne Prize for Music, was founded in 2004 by Executive Director Simon Warrender, with support from Committee for Melbourne. The 2019 Melbourne Prize is supported by major patron The Vera Moore Foundation. Previous winners of the Melbourne Prize for Music include Kutcha Edwards (2016), Brett Dean (2013), David Jones (2010) and Professor Paul Grabowsky (2007).

Vocalist and songwriter Mojo Juju received the $15,000 Development Award 2019, which includes $10,000 cash, a $6,000 Yamaha Music voucher and a $2,500 Qantas airfare voucher. Composer, improviser and performer Erkki Veltheim was awarded the $20,000 Distinguished Musicians Fellowship 2019, and jazz pianist Andrea Keller won the $12,500 Beleura Emerging Composers Award 2019.

The judging panel this year included: singer/songwriter Kate Miller-Heidke; singer/songwriter Kutcha Edwards; pianist, composer, conductor and Director, Monash Academy of Performing Arts Paul Grabowsky; composer and Professor of Composition, Sydney Conservatorium of Music, Liza Lim; Director of Artistic Planning at Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, Melissa King; and co-founder of Bakehouse Studios and SLAM, Helen Marcou.

“Victoria stands proud as a hub for music and this year’s finalists represent the talent of our local industry,” said Victoria’s Minister for Creative Industries, Martin Foley. “Congratulations to Deborah Cheetham and all of this year’s nominated artists on this well-deserved recognition.”

Each of the finalists in the 2019 categories are still in the running for the publicly-voted $3000 Civic Choice Award. Voters have a chance to win at overnight stay at Sofitel Melbourne on Collins. Voting is open here.