The Freedman Music Fellowships are among the most prestigious in Australia. One may not self-nominate. Distinguished nominators from around Australia nominate, between them, 16 candidates for each fellowship.

The Classical Fellowships are for classical instrumentalists aged 30 or less. Selection of three finalists is on the basis of musical quality as shown by video submissions, and a proposed project on which the candidate would expend the $20,000 prize if they win. There is no prescribed repertoire and candidates are encouraged to present their strengths. The projects should advance their careers by lifting their musical achievement and through helping to reach an audience more effectively.

The winner is chosen at a concert by three finalists in one of the smaller rooms at the Sydney Opera House. Because of the openness of the requirements, the programs can be unusual. In 2019, possibly for the first time in the centuries-old history of Western classical music, the three soloists played double bass, double bass, and Baroque viola.

After two years, assuming that the project is complete, the winner is asked to submit a report describing their experiences and what they have achieved and learned. These reports are archived on the Music Trust website.

The Jazz Fellowships are for jazz musicians – instrumentalists and singers – aged 35 or less. With this age limit, the candidates tend to be well established in mature careers, although there are also younger candidates. Indeed, a young musician won in the most recent award, 2019.

Jazz in Australia becomes ever more diverse. The Music Trust takes the view that in this fluid situation, it is not its place to define jazz. That is what the musicians do. So between them, the 16 candidates present everything from what might be called mainstream to the experimental. There is great diversity, including in recent years many collaborations with music from other cultures, especially those from Asia, reflecting Australia’s increasing integration into the cultures of its region.

The reports are a collection of the ideas and experiences of some of Australia’s most talented and imaginative classical and jazz musicians.

They can be read here.

Dr Richard Letts AM is the founder and Director of The Music Trust, founder and former Executive Director of the Music Council of Australia (now Music Australia) and Past President of the International Music Council. He has held senior positions in music and culture in Australia and the United States, advocated for music and music education, conducted research, written policy documents, edited four periodicals, published four books and hundreds of articles.

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