The Brisbane saxophonist, one of Australia’s brightest young performers, will be funded to do overseas research.

Brisbane-based composer and saxophonist Rafael Karlen is one of 109 Australians to have been awarded a prestigious Churchill Fellowship. “The Churchill Fellowships were established to enable emerging specialists to bring knowledge back to Australia in order to benefit the wider community,” said Paul Tys, the CEO of the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust. “Rafael’s project is the epitome of this.”

Karlen graduated from the Queensland Conservatorium of Music in 2004, and in addition to being active as a performer and composer, he directs the Queensland Youth Orchestra Big Band and lectures at several music institutions. As a Churchill Fellow, he plans to travel across Europe to identify the creative processes of successful international ensembles, composers and performers.

“My goal is to seek out people and ensembles that I admire and respect that are producing some of the most exciting music in their field at a high international level,” Karlen said. “I will spend time with people and ensembles including The Metropole Orkest and Vince Mendoza in Holland, The WDR Big Band, and Florian Ross in Germany, The Danish Radio Big Band, Tord Gustavsen in Norway, and Darcy James Argue in New York. These are people who are at the top of their game and I am thrilled to have the opportunity to interact and learn from this acclaimed musicians.”

Karlen has a passion for presenting and performing contemporary music, and 2016 was already shaping up to be a busy year before the Fellowship was awarded. “I am very active as a performer and composer, and I lead several ensembles here in Brisbane so I am excited to bring insights and inspiration back with me and channel this through my creative outlets here in Australia,” Karlen commented. As part of the QSO Current Festival, the Queensland Symphony Orchestral will premiere several new works by Karlen for Chamber Orchestra. His most recent releases include Hope in My Pocket, a collaboration with singer Kristin Bernardi and pianist Sean Foren, and an album titled The Sweetness of Things Half Remembered featuring pianist Steve Newcomb and the Rosenberg String Quartet.

The Churchill Fellowship is the latest accolade for Karlen, who received the Lord Mayor’s Fellowship for Young and Emerging Artists from Brisbane City Council in 2011 to undertake European study. He was a finalist in the 2009 Bell Awards categories for Best Jazz Composition of the Year and Young Australian Jazz Artist of the Year, and in he was commissioned to compose a piece for his quintet to be performed at the opening of the 2014 Brisbane International Jazz Festival.

The Winston Churchill Memorial trust and Churchill Fellowships were established after Sir Winston Churchill’s death in 1965, allowing Fellows to become his living legacy and inspire extraordinary thinking.

More information about the Churchill Trust and the work of previous Fellows can be found on the official website. To hear some of Karlen’s compositions and performances, visit his website.