The 50 finalists for the 2021 APRA Professional Development Awards have been revealed, showcasing a broad range of Australian songwriting and composing talent across nine categories.

Now awarded annually, the 2021 Professional Development Awards sees the introduction of a new Music Theatre category. Ten grants of $10,000 will be awarded across the different genres, as well as a prize from Australis Music.

The five finalists in the Classical/Experimental category are Connor D’Netto, Carolyn Schofield, Alex Turley, Chris Williams and Samantha Wolf.

Connor D'NettoConnor D’Netto. Photograph supplied

D’Netto, who was one of the 30 young musicians featured in Limelight’s Gen Next feature in October 2019, is a Queensland-based composer of contemporary classical music. His music draws together post-minimal, neoclassical and pop influences, combined with electronic music elements. In February 2021, his new work Uncertain Planning was premiered by the Sydney Symphony Orchestra as part of its 50 Fanfares Project. He is currently working on his first feature film soundtrack.

Carolyn Schofield is a Melbourne-based, Vietnamese-Australian composer and electronic musician also known as Fia Fiell. She combines her work as a pianist with a modern and perceptive ear for stretching out the orbit of millennial electronic music constructs. Her improvisatory live performances involve multiple synths played and processed in real time to create hauntingly ethereal, unsettling and subtly-shifting meditative soundscapes.

Also based in Melbourne, Alex Turley’s work has been performed by the Melbourne, Sydney, Tasmanian and West Australian Symphony Orchestras. This year sees performances of new commissions from the SSO (as part of its 50 Fanfares project), MSO and the Darwin Symphony Orchestras, for whom he has created a collaborative work called with Maningrida-based rock band Ripple Effect. He is one of the participants chosen by Sydney-based chamber group Omega Ensemble for its inaugural 2021 CoLAB: Composer Accelerator Program, and is also one of the 67 composers participating in The ANAM Set.

​Chris Williams is a composer, sound designer and conductor whose works have been performed throughout Australia, Europe, Britain and the US by orchestras and ensembles including Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra, London Musical Theatre Orchestra, Joyful Company of Singers, The Song Company, The Australian Voices, Cavaleri Quartet, Schola Cantorum, and Manchester Chamber Choir. In 2020, he was commissioned to create new works for The Song Company and the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra.

Samantha Wolf is a Melbourne-based composer whose diverse practice encompasses solo, chamber, choral, band and orchestral works, interdisciplinary collaborations, and electroacoustic and fixed media works that incorporate noise, speech, and found sounds. She won the 2019 Sue W Chamber Music Composition Prize and is also participating in The ANAM Set.

The new Music Theatre category offers funds for burgeoning composers to be used towards a workshop for their piece. The shortlist includes Maggie McKenna who burst onto the scene when she played Muriel in Muriel’s Wedding the Musical and who recently starred in the musical Fun Home at Sydney Theatre Company. She is a finalist for her first musical Inventing Ivy, which she began writing during the COVID lockdown.

Hugo Chiarella and Naomi Livingston feature twice for their musicals Evie May, which premiered at the Hayes Theatre Co in 2018, and Paradise Road. The other Music Theatre finalists are Daniel Cullen for his show Dubbo Championship Wrestling, which was scheduled to be premiered at the Hayes Theatre Co in 2020 but has been postponed, and Sean Donohue for Bearded.

The Smugglers of Light Foundation Music and Media Award will provide a $10,000 grant to a promising Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander music or media practitioner. The foundation was set up in memory of Eli Westlake, who was tragically killed in 2008 at the age of 21. Previous winners are songwriter and vocalist Jess Hitchcock; violinist, composer and dancer Eric Avery; and actor, singer, songwriter and composer Marcus Corowa. The finalists this year are Danzal Baker aka Baker Boy, Eleea Navarro, Jeremy Marou, Robbie Miller and Yirrmal Marika.

Other categories in the APRA Professional Development Awards are: Popular Contemporary; Hip Hop/Rap/Sound/R&B; Jazz & Improvised Music; Film & Television; Country/Americana; and Dance/Electronic.

The winners of the APRA PDAs and the Smugglers of Light Foundation Music and Media Award will be announced on 24 June.

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