Winners of the 2020 Art Music Awards Announced

Tuesday, 08 Sep 2020

Luminary Awards to Chris Sainsbury and the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra 

The 2020 Art Music Awards have been celebrated in a virtual ceremony fit for a creative nation, with winning artists and organisations spanning the country from East to West, and from Tasmania to the Northern Territory. 

Presented annually by APRA AMCOS and the Australian Music Centre (AMC), the Art Music Awards acknowledge the achievements of composers, performers and educators in the genres of contemporary classical music, jazz, improvisation, sound art and experimental music. The 2020 Awards included several new and restructured categories, in tune with the constantly evolving art music landscape. 

The inaugural national Luminary Award for an individual, for sustained contribution over several years, was presented to Dharug composer Chris Sainsbury for initiating and driving the Ngarra-Burria: First Nations Composers program, a critically important project. According to the judging panel: “Chris’ work over the past five years has had a national impact in both training emerging First Nations composers and redefining their role and future within Australian art music.” 

The Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra was the recipient for the Luminary Award for an Organisation, for long-term commitment offering professional development for Australian composers and musicians, as well as promoting gender equity through opportunities for female conductors. The TSO’s support of Australian music was also evident in this year’s finalists list.

The Performance of the Year Awards – for the first time presented in two categories – were a show of strength by women in particular. Western Australian percussionist Louise Devenish won the Notated Music category with her program ‘Sheets of Sound’; while Sandy Evans’s Bridge of Dreams team (Sandy Evans, Shubha Mudgal, Aneesh Pradhan and Sirens Big Band) took home the inaugural Performance of the Year: Jazz/Improvised Music Award. Devenish is also winner of the Luminary Award for Western Australia.

The new Work of the Year: Dramatic category made Awards history in having two winners. The judging panel unanimously agreed to award two very different but equally outstanding operatic works: Elliott Gyger and Pierce Wilcox’s Oscar and Lucinda, based on Peter Carey’s novel; and Cat Hope’s Speechless - a wordless opera with a graphic notation score generated from the 2014 Human Rights Commission Report about children in immigration detention.

Bassist and composer Linda May Han Oh continued Western Australia’s strong performance by taking home the Art Music Award for Work of the Year: Jazz for her Aventurine – “a pinnacle of what jazz can be in Australia today” according to the judging panel.

The new Award for Work of the Year: Electroacoustic/Sound Art went to Melbourne-based Matthias Schack-Arnott’s Everywhen, praised by the panel as “stunning in conception and in execution”.

In the new Work of the Year: Choral category Paul Stanhope’s work to Steve Hawke’s text, I am Martuwarra, was acknowledged as “a texturally varied and interesting work that harnesses the richness of the multi-layered choral forces to great effect”. Commissioned by Gondwana Choirs, the work’s title refers to the Fitzroy River in the Kimberley Region.

James Ledger’s Viola Concerto won the Award for Work of the Year: Large Ensemble, the judges calling it “a highly sophisticated work with its innovative harmonic language and beautiful synergy between all its elements”. The Work of the Year: Chamber Music went to Chris Dench’s extensive solo piano composition passing bells:day, “an extraordinary contribution to the repertoire”.

The Award for Excellence in Music Education went to Netanela Mizrahi and Guwanbal Gurruwiwi for the Djari Project. A finalist in two categories this year, the project is a compositional collaboration drawing on the traditional knowledge and songlines from the Galpu community of Galiwinku/Elcho Island, bringing together composers, musicians, music educators and students throughout the Northern Territory.

The Award for Excellence in Experimental Music was presented to the Music Box Project for ‘Shallow Listening’, a concert experience demonstrating ability to facilitate, curate and perform experimental music at the highest level. 

The  Award for Excellence in a Regional Area went to Gillian Howell and Tura New Music for the Fitzroy Valley New Music Project, a third and final year of residencies developing music projects through community collaboration and open exchange of ideas.

Composer and sound artist, Dr Ros Bandt formally accepted her Richard Gill Award for Distinguished Services to Australian Music, announced in August, and presented at the ceremony by Dr. Leah Barclay.

The 10th annual Art Music Awards were co-hosted by Jonathan BigginsDr Lou Bennett AM and Zela Margossian, with performances by Robin Fox & Erkki VeltheimLouise DevenishLinda May Han OhMelanie Munuggurr-Williams and Beatrice Lewis. The performance program was curated by Barney McAll.

APRA AMCOS and the AMC congratulate all the 2020 Art Music Awards winners on their outstanding achievements.

2020 Art Music Awards - winners 

Richard Gill Award for Distinguished Services to Australian Music

Dr Ros Bandt 

Award for Excellence in Music Education 

Netanela Mizrahi and Guwanbal Gurruwiwi for the Djari Project

Award for Excellence in a Regional Area 

Gillian Howell and Tura New Music for the Fitzroy Valley New Music Project

Award for Excellence in Experimental Music 

The Music Box Project for Shallow Listening 

Work of the Year: Choral 

Title:                            I am Martuwarra

Composer:                  Paul Stanhope, text by Steve Hawke

Performer:                  Gondwana Choirs, Luminescence Chamber Singers, Valla Voices, Hunter Singers, and Resonance and Lyn Williams, conductor

Work of the Year: Chamber Music

Title:                            passing bells: day

Composer:                  Chris Dench

Performer:                  Alex Raineri

Work of the Year: Large Ensemble

Title:                            Viola Concerto

Composer:                  James Ledger

Performer:                  Brett Dean, West Australian Symphony Orchestra and Fabien Gabel, conductor

Work of the Year: Electroacoustic/Sound Art 

Title:                            Everywhen

Composer:                  Matthias Schack-Arnott

Performer:                  Matthias Schack-Arnott

Work of the Year: Dramatic

Title:                            Oscar and Lucinda

Composer:                  Elliott Gyger, librettist Pierce Wilcox

Performer:                  Sydney Chamber Opera and Jack Symonds, conductor

Title:                            Speechless

Composer:                  Cat Hope

Performer:                  Judith Dodsworth, Karina Utomo, Caitlin Cassidy, Sage Pbbbt (soloists), with Australian Bass Orchestra, Decibel New Music Ensemble and Aaron Wyatt, conductor

Work of the Year: Jazz 

Title:                            Aventurine      

Composer:                  Linda May Han Oh       

Performer:                  Linda May Han Oh, Greg Ward, Matt Mitchell, Ches Smith, Fung Chern Hwei, Sara Caswell, Benni von Gutzeit, Jeremy Harman, Invenio with Gian Slater, director 

Performance of the Year: Notated Composition

Performer:                  Louise Devenish        

Title:                            Sheets of Sound

Composers:                Annie Hui-Hsin Hsieh, Matthias Schack-Arnott, Louise Devenish and Stuart James

Performance of the Year: Jazz/Improvised Music

Performer:                  Sandy Evans, Shubha Mudgal, Aneesh Pradhan and Sirens Big Band

Title:                            Bridge of Dreams 

Composer:                  Sandy Evans, Shubha Mudgal and Aneesh Pradhan

Luminary Awards: National


  • Chris Sainsbury for initiating and driving Ngarra-Burria: First Peoples Composers program  


  • Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra for Australian Composers School, Australian Conducting Academy, and professional development opportunities for Australian musicians

Luminary Awards: State/Territory

Australian Capital Territory

  • Canberra International Music Festival for their record-breaking 2019 event and ongoing reputation for high quality and innovative programming

New South Wales

  •  Joanna Drimatis for sustained contribution to the performance, programming and advocacy of Australian works, and string music education

South Australia

  • Ross McHenry for trailblazing global pathways through artistic practice for South Australian musicians

Northern Territory 

  • David Wilfred & Daniel Wilfred for cultural leadership and sustained creative contributions in Australia and beyond 

Western Australia

  • Louise Devenish for her ongoing advocacy, commissioning and performance of new percussion music in Western Australia


  • Making Waves for breaking down perceived state barriers and connecting a new generation of Australian musicians


  • Michael Kieran Harvey for supporting the Tasmanian new music community through teaching, performance and recording


  • Katie Noonan for The Glad Tomorrow and furthering the future of Queensland musicians

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