The  winners of the 2018 Art Music Awards, which celebrate excellence and innovation in contemporary Australian art music, have been announced, with both newcomers and past winners honoured at the ceremony in Melbourne.

Mary Finsterer’s opera Biographica, a work inspired by the life and writings of Renaissance physician and mathematician Gerolamo Cardano, has won best Vocal/Choral Work. The composer’s first opera, it has a libretto by Tom Wright and received its world premiere at Carriageworks as part of 2017’s Sydney Festival, performed by Sydney Chamber Opera and Ensemble Offspring, with Jack Symonds conducting.

Mary Finsterer. Photo © Dean Golja, Image United

Instrumental Work of the Year was awarded to Lisa Illean for Cantor (after Willa Cather). An Ensemble Offspring commission, the work for large ensemble was funded through the APRA Art Music Fund and has since been performed internationally. Cantor draws on three of Cather’s poems, and is inspired by vocal traditions introduced by transatlantic immigration to Nebraska in the 1890s.

Lisa Illean

Paul Stanhope’s Concerto for Trombone and Orchestra has won Orchestral Work of the Year. Written for and performed by the West Australian Symphony Orchestra, the world premiere was conducted by Asher Fisch and featured WASO’s Principal Trombone, Joshua Davis. Written in close collaboration with Davis, Stanhope’s single movement work is an exciting showpiece for the trombone.

Paul Stanhope

The Chicago-based contemporary chamber ensemble Eighth Blackbird won Performance of the Year for its performance of Australian composer Holly Harrison’s Lobster Tales and Turtle Soup.

Carl Vine AO was awarded Excellence by an Individual in recognition of his works being performed both within Australia and abroad, for his mentorship, and his artistic direction of Musica Viva.

Carl Vine. Photo © Keith Saunders

The Award for Excellence by an Organisation went to Tura New Music in acknowledgement of its 30-year advocacy and support for Australian art music, while Excellence in a Regional Area was awarded to Big hART’s Acoustic Life of Sheds. The project saw spaces in regional Tasmania repurposed as instruments or sound shells with the involvement of composers and musicians working with local communities. ACT’s Young Music Society Inc was the recipient of the award for Excellence in Music Education, recognising its 50 years of community youth music activity.

Acoustic Life of Sheds at Tasmania’s Ten Days on the Island arts festival. Photo © Heath Holden

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

As previously announced, the Distinguished Services to Australian Music award was presented to curator, academic and musicologist Robyn Holmes.


Vocal / Choral Work of the Year

Title: Biographica
Composer: Mary Finsterer; libretto by Tom Wright
Performer: Sydney Chamber Opera, Ensemble Offspring with Jack Symonds (conductor)

Jazz Work of the Year

Title: American Counterpoint
Composer: Matthew Sheens
Performer: Matthew Sheens, Lyndon Gray, Myele Manzanza, and Zephyr String Quartet

Instrumental Work of the Year

Title: Cantor (after Willa Cather)
Composer: Lisa Illean
Performer: Ensemble Offspring

Orchestral Work of the Year

Title: Concerto for Trombone and Orchestra
Composer: 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 activities

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

Winners of State Awards are determined through a review process assessing all applications received for each state across all Award categories.


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