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2021 Professional Development Awards finalists announced

Media Published Monday 31 May 2021
Professional Development Awards 2021

The 50 finalists for the 2021 APRA Professional Development Awards have been announced.

There are 10x $10,000 grants to be presented across 9 genres.

Finalists include Tia Gostelow, Casey Barnes, Connor D'Netto, Vetta Borne, Baker Boy and many more.

The 50 finalists for the 2021 APRA Professional Development Awards (PDAs) have been revealed today, showcasing a broad range of Australian songwriting and composing talent across the categories of Popular Contemporary, Hip Hop / Rap / Soul / R&B, Classical / Experimental, Jazz & Improvised Music, Film & Television, Country / Americana, Dance / Electronic, Music Theatre, as well as the Smugglers of Light Foundation Music and Media Award.

With profiles steadily on the rise, this year’s ‘shortlist’ includes breakthrough producer Taka Perry, singer-songwriters Leah Senior and Gordan Koang, 2021 APRA Music Awards nominee Melanie Dyer, hip-hop artist JESSWAR, saxophonist and improviser Andrew Saragossi, screen composer Angela Little, classical composer Alex Turley and more.

Now held annually, the APRA PDAs provide impactful support for emerging songwriters and composers - previous winners Gotye, Julia Jacklin, Ecca Vandal, Morgan Evans, Briggs, Ainslie Wills, Jeremy Rose and Caitlin Yeo have all benefited from this career-boosting initiative.

2021 also sees the introduction of a new Music Theatre category, offering funds for burgeoning composers to be used towards a workshop for their piece. The shortlist includes comedic-rock musical Dubbo Championship Wrestling and Evie May, a new musical based on the long-gone Tivoli vaudeville circuit.

A panel of local judges comprising Jenny Morris, Dom Alessio, Brooke McClymont, Amanda Cole, Pip Norman, Fanny Lumsden, Georgia Mooney, Joel Ma, John Ferris and more have determined this group of music creators who are in the running to each take home a career-changing cash prize of $10,000 as well as a prize from Australis Music. A complete list of this year’s PDAs judges can be found here.

The Smugglers of Light Foundation Music and Media Award returns to provide a promising Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander music or media practitioner with a grant of $10,000. The foundation was set up in memory of Eli Westlake, who was tragically killed in 2008 at the age of 21. Previous winners are songwriter and vocalist Jess Hitchcock; violinist, composer and dancer Eric Avery; and actor, singer, songwriter and composer Marcus Corowa.

The winners of the APRA PDAs and the Smugglers of Light Foundation Music and Media Award will be announced on Thursday 24 June 2021.

Without further ado, the finalists for the 2021 APRA PDAs:

Popular Contemporary

(2 Awards will be given in this category including Pop, Rock, Alternative, Blues, Roots, Folk, Metal, Christian and Children’s)

  • Alex Lahey
  • Bri Clark
  • Elizabeth Drummond
  • Elle Graham pka Woodes / Tornado Club
  • Georgia Potter pka Moreton
  • Gordon Koang
  • Leah Senior
  • Sahara Beck
  • Tessa Thames
  • Tia Gostelow


  • Alex Turley
  • Carolyn Schofield
  • Chris Williams
  • Connor D’Netto
  • Samantha Wolf


  • Blake O’Connor
  • Casey Barnes
  • Gretta Ziller
  • Melanie Dyer
  • Sarah Buckley pka The Buckleys


  • Christopher Arnott pka Friendless
  • Elizabeth Maniscalco pka BRUX
  • Jannah Beth
  • Tamika Nacson pka XIRA
  • Taka Perry

Film & Television/Gaming

  • Angela Little
  • Emily Harrison
  • Freya Berkhout
  • Paul Doust
  • Ryan Sorensen

Hip Hop/Rap/R&B/Soul

  • Angela Paez Izquierdo pka ANGE
  • Jessica Koroi pka JESSWAR
  • Josh Molony pka Setwun
  • Maribelle Anes pka Vetta Borne
  • Milan Ring

Jazz/Improvised music

  • Andrew Saragossi
  • Audrey Boyle pka Audrey Powne
  • Harry Mitchell
  • Rafael Karlen
  • Steve Barry

Music theatre

  • Daniel Cullen – Dubbo Championship Wrestling
  • Hugo Chiarella & Naomi Livingston – Paradise Road
  • Maggie McKenna – Inventing Ivy
  • Naomi Livingston & Hugo Chiarella – Evie May
  • Sean Donehue – Bearded

Smugglers of Light Foundation music and media award

  • Danzal Baker pka Baker Boy
  • Eleea Navarro
  • Jeremy Marou
  • Robbie Miller
  • Yirrmal Marika