Home News 2021 APRA Professional Development Awards Winners Announced!

2021 APRA Professional Development Awards Winners Announced!

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An exciting next wave of Australian songwriters and composers have been announced as the recipients of the 2021 APRA PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT AWARDS (PDAs).

APRA AMCOS is delighted to now present the PDAs annually to honour developing songwriters and composers across a range of genres, providing a $10,000 cash award at a crucial stage in their career.

The 2021 APRA PDAs showcase music creators across multiple disciplines, from Fijian hip-hop artist Jesswar to contemporary composer Connor D’Netto, to screen composer and creative technologist Freya Berkhout, innovative pop artist Woodes and inaugural Music Theatre honourees Hugo Chiarella and Naomi Livingston.

Congratulations to the 2021 PDA recipients:
Alex Lahey – Popular Contemporary 
Elle Graham pka Woodes / Tornado Club – Popular Contemporary
Connor D’Netto – Classical / Experimental 
Sarah Buckley – The Buckleys – Country / Americana 
Christopher Arnott pka Friendless – Dance/ Electronic
Jessica Koroi pka Jesswar – Hip Hop / Rap / R&B / Soul
Freya Berkhout – Film and Television / Gaming
Steve Barry – Jazz / Improvised Music
Hugo Chiarella & Naomi Livingston – Paradise Road – Music Theatre
Jeremy Marou – Smugglers of Light Foundation Music and Media Award

“Our objective and intention with the Professional Development Awards is simple – provide recognition and financial support to developing songwriters and composers, so they can continue to follow their dream,” saidAPRA AMCOS Chief Executive Dean Ormston.

“It’s a challenging time for anyone in contemporary music. Event cancellations and postponements and restricted travel translates into limited career development and a lack of international opportunities for our members. APRA AMCOS applauds this year’s recipients for their vision and tenacity, and we’re excited to see what they will achieve next.”

Each winner is awarded a $10,000 cash prize as well as a prize from Australis Music ranging from an Epihone Casino Coupe guitar to a Behringer POLY-D Synth.

Musician, songwriter and youth worker, Jeremy Marou, has been named the recipient of the $12,000 Music and Media Award grant from the Smugglers of Light, a foundation set up by Australian composer and conductor Nigel Westlake in memory of his son Eli Westlake, who was tragically killed in 2008 at the age of 21.

“For over 10 years Jeremy Marou has been forging a career as one of Australia’s leading singer-songwriters and is also a prominent role model for young and emerging artists in his community. We are thrilled to be able to offer Jeremy this opportunity to expand his writing and compositional skills, whilst taking time to reconnect with his Torres Strait Islander roots and share his skills and experiences with his community,” said Nigel Westlake.

A panel of judges comprising Brooke McClymont, Caitlin Yeo, Dom Alessio, Jenny Morris, Joel Ma, Pip Norman, Yve Blake and more have determined the impressive winners from a pool of close to 1,000 applicants.
Previous PDA winners include Gotye, Ainslie Wills, Julia Jacklin, Ecca Vandal, Ruby Boots, Briggs, Morgan Evans, Sally Seltmann and screen composer Pru Montin.
A playlist featuring the work of PDAs finalists is available on Spotify and Apple Music.


Alex Lahey – Following Alex Lahey’s ARIA Award-nominated debut album I Love You Like A Brother she played Late Night With Seth Meyers and a string of North American festivals such as Lollapalooza, Bonnaroo, Sasquatch, Osheaga and Hangout. Her Australian festival list include Falls, Groovin’ The Moo and Splendour In The Grass. Writing her second album in Nashville, she placed songs on The Bold Type and Supergirl, the relaunch of the Tony Hawk Pro Skater game and advertising campaigns for Lidl.
Lahey is the go-to writer and producer for Maggie Lindemann, Japanese Wallpaper and BLOXX, and collaborates with Jacknife Lee, JT Daly, Fran Healy (Travis), Isom Innis (Foster The People), Jenny Owen Youngs, Christian Lee Hutson, Steph Marziano and Ian Walsh.

Elle Graham (Woodes) – An upbringing in tropical North Queensland coupled with VCA training gave Elle Graham the inspiration to launch her solo project WOODES.
She signed to Universal Music Publishing Group after her self-titled 2016 debut EP charted internationally. Her EP Golden Hour spawned two triple j favourites, alongside the certified Gold collaboration with Set Mo – I Belong Here. Festival appearances such as Splendour, SXSW, Canadian Music Week & Beyond the Valley as well as headline tours have cemented her live reputation.
Global syncs with Netflix and The Bold Type were joined by her 2020 debut album Crystal Ball, which was promoted by Minecraft to over 10 million active users.


Connor D’Netto is a composer of contemporary classical music, described as “the model contemporary Australian composer” by ABC Classic FM. A classically trained singer, he’s had works commissioned by the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, Australian String Quartet, New York groups Bang On A Can, Chromic Duo and panSonus, and performers including Katie Noonan and Karin Schaupp. In 2021 The Australian listed Connor as one of their “21 Hottest Creative Artists of 2021”. In 2019, he became the youngest ever Composer-In-Residence of the Australian Festival of Chamber Music. Connor has been awarded prizes including an APRA AMCOS Art Music Fund, Australian New Works Award, and a Brisbane Arts and Cultural Innovation Award.


Sarah Grace Buckley is songwriter and lead vocalist for Byron Bay sibling band The Buckleys. Listed in American Songwriter’s ‘Top 20 Songs of 2020’ for the song ‘Money’, she’s lauded by The Australian as one of the “Hottest Creatives To Watch in 2021”.
Sarah wrote The Buckleys’ debut album Daydream, described by Rolling Stone as a “masterclass in songwriting.”  The debut single, ‘Daydream’ scored a #1 single at Australian Country radio in 2019.
She wrote the single ‘Edge Of The Earth’ for Caitlyn Shadbolt’s latest album, peaking at #3 on Country Radio. In 2019 her first major songwriting cut featured on the CMAA Golden Guitar Awards Album of the Year and in 2020 Sarah synched a track on a David Attenborough documentary.


Chris Arnott (Friendless) – One of Australia’s most formidable electronic producers and songwriters, Chris dropped his first LP with punk rock band LOKI when he was just 14.
Chris has worked with the likes of Kate Miller-Heidke, The Potbelleez, Kilter, Peking Duk, Tiesto, Paces, Timmy Trumpet, Tommy Trash, Scribe, Savage, Ricky Lee, Bombs Away, producing an arsenal of dance-floor weapons earning two ARIA Club Chart #1’s, 24 ARIA Club Chart top 10’s, 14 ARIA Club Chart top 20’s and streaming numbers in the millions.
Most recently, Chris has focused his production and songwriting talents on guiding the development of a plethora of up-and-coming artists and producers.


Jesswar – A proud Fijian woman, Jesswar is deeply inspired by her chosen community and her experiences. Jesswar is spearheading a wave of diverse Australian acts, her identity as a queer Pasifika woman remaining a touchstone of her art and work.
The first member of her family to attend university, Jesswar is a peer support worker and runs music workshops for young people in the outer suburbs of Meanjin.
She uses music as the vessel to tell her story of resilience and resourcefulness, defending the notions of holistic codependency and kinship. Having released her widely acclaimed first single ‘Savage’ in 2017, she has collaborated with the likes of DZ Deathrays, Tasha the Amazon and Briggs, and performed at Laneway, Splendour in the Grass and Groovin’ the Moo.


Freya Berkhout is a multi-award-winning composer, vocalist, writer and creative technologist, revelling in intersectional feminist and queer narratives and perspectives.
A graduate of Sydney University and AFTRS, Freya won the Kenneth B. Myer Award for Exceptional Talent upon graduation. She’s completed a Masters in Computational Art at Goldsmiths, University of London, receiving the Humanitarian Scholarship.
Freya is funded by the Australia Council for the Arts and holds an Exceptional Talent Artist Visa in the UK. She has been included in the curated list of composers worldwide for Free The Work and was nominated for a 2019 Screen Music Award for Best Music in a Short Film. Her film scores have screened at Cannes, Warsaw, Palm Springs, Sydney and BFI London Film Festivals.


Steve Barry is a New-Zealand born pianist, organist, composer and improviser based in Sydney. A sessional lecturer in improvisation and jazz piano at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, Steve’s music reflects his parallel interests in jazz and 20th century classical music.
Steve’s recent release for avant-garde jazz quartet, Blueprints & Vignettes (2018), received a 4-star review in the Sydney Morning Herald. Three past recordings have also received 4-star reviews in The Australian.
Steve is the recipient of numerous awards, including the Bell Award for Young Australian Jazz Artist of the Year (2013), 2nd place in the National Jazz Awards (2013), and a BBM Travel Scholarship (2011). He was a finalist in the 2019 and 2017 APRA Professional Development Awards


Hugo Chiarella & Naomi Livingstone – Hugo Chiarella is resident director on the UK tour of Les Miserables. Having worked for the Darlinghurst Theatre Company, he co-wrote the hit musicals DreamSong, Evie May and Guilty Pleasures.
As a performer he has worked in Les Miserables, Fiddler on the Roof and hosted the children’s TV series Magical Tales. He produced the web series As Actors and sketch comedy with I’m With Stupid.
Co-creator for the Australian musical, Evie May, Naomi Livingston has performed in the Australian tour of Les Miserables and worked for Sport for Jove Theatre Company, Bell Shakespeare and Invisible Circus/KXT.
Naomi played Kitty Clarke in Australian musical Morgans Run, accompanied by the Symphony of Australia. She performed in The Libertine at The Darlinghurst Theatre and earned an Award for Excellence as part of The Sydney Fringe Festival.


Jeremy Marou – One half of folk-pop duo Busby Marou, Jeremy is a champion of Australian storytelling, invested in a gifted partnership whose key element is the vocal interplay of two lifelong mates. Since meeting in a pub in Rockhampton, Busby Marou has become one of Australia’s hardest working live bands, with millions of global streams, top 20 airplay, four ARIA Charting albums, and the winner of multiple APRA Music Awards.
Busby Marou’s self-titled album is certified ARIA Gold, while their most recent album The Great Divide debuted in the ARIA top 5. Postcards From The Shell House was Busby Marou’s first ARIA #1 album. Busby Marou are now the face of Tourism and Events QLD.

APRA AMCOS is a key business partner to Australasian music creators. We have 108,000 members who are songwriters, composers and music publishers. We license organisations to play, perform, copy or record our members’ music, and we distribute the royalties to our members.

As a world-leading organisation invested in the future of music, APRA AMCOS enables music creators and customers to maximise the value music brings to business and life. We achieve this through a simple and effective licensing framework, and providing holistic industry support – from education, to live music, export, creators’ rights advocacy and recognition through our high-profile awards and events program. apraamcos.com.au

Australis Music Group is a specialist distributor and producer of Musical Instruments and Professional Audio products, providing outstanding quality service and value added solutions based on over 45 years of industry experience. 

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