Sydney clarinettist Oliver Shermacher has been named the winner of the 2018 Freedman Classical Fellowship. He receives a $20,000 cash prize which will see him undertake his proposed career-enhancing project – Shermacher will commission Australian composer Alice Chance, in consultation with director Julia Robertson, to write a substantial work for solo clarinet. He intends to tour the work in Australia, New Zealand and Germany in a recital featuring movement, visual effects and spoken word.

“I feel absolutely honoured to have been selected as the 2018 Freedman Fellow,” Shermacher told Limelight. “It seems surreal to be joining the incredible lineage of performers that this Fellowship has produced, and I’m so looking forward to creating and sharing my project over the coming months.”

“This Fellowship is going to allow me to realise my potential as a performer and artist, and will facilitate the realisation of all of the unusual ideas I have always had but been too afraid or too constrained by finances to share,” he added. “It’s a confirmation that classical music is constantly evolving, and I’m so excited to be able to contribute my own creative efforts into the development and growth of Australian music.”

Oliver Shermacher. Photo © Frank Crews

The clarinettist was one of three finalists who performed in a concert on Saturday evening at ABC’s Eugene Goossens Hall, up against violinist Courtenay Cleary and percussionist Thea Rossen.

The judges charged with naming just one winner were CEO of City Recital Hall Elaine Chia, Director of Artistic Planning for the Sydney Symphony Orchestra Raff Wilson, and pianist Sonya Lifschitz.

“I was in awe of the three finalists,” said Chia. “Each presented vastly contrasting performances, each imbued with creativity and innovation. Their confidence and… ease with technology and new sounds was inspirational to see and hear.”

Lifschitz added, “the level of artistry, boldness, imagination and creative courage demonstrated by the three finalists is a great testament and affirmation that ‘classical’ music, far from what the doomsayers may say, is a vital, pulsing and progressive artform, thriving in the hands, hearts and spirits of these fierce young trailblazers, not afraid to break rules, invent new forms and sounds, and engage the audiences in new and visionary ways. The three performances, demonstrating great diversity, innovation and creative agility, left me feeling completely confident and assured that the future of art music is in safe hands.”

Shermacher was a Finalist in this year’s ABC Young Performers Awards, held in July, where he netted the Audience Choice Prize. He has performed with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra, AYO Momentum Ensemble and with ensembles at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music.