Drumroll Canberra. The capital has fared well in national music awards with three of its brightest honoured, two for individual service and one for a Work of the Year.
The prestigious Art Music Awards announced this week (Tuesday night) celebrated individuals, groups and organisations in the Australian music community. They recognised excellence among Australia’s finest creators and performers in contemporary classical, jazz, experimental music and sound art.
Artistic director of the Canberra International Music Festival (CIMF) Roland Peelman won the national Luminary award for an individual for sustained service to Australian music.
Performer, conductor and creative producer AJ America won the state and territory Luminary award for leadership in the ACT, and Canberra-based composer Heather Percy won the award for Choral Work of the Year.
Belgian-born Peelman is a conductor, pianist, artistic director and mentor to composers, singers and instrumentalists, particularly through his work with the Canberra International Music Festival and The Song Company, Australia’s leading professional vocal ensemble.
He has been at the helm of the festival since 2015 and is an acclaimed musician of great versatility who has established a reputation as one of Australia’s most innovative musical directors.
Peelman transformed The Song Company into one of Australia’s most outstanding and innovative ensembles.
America, the artistic director of Luminescence Chamber Singers and Children’s Choir and the chair of the Minister’s Creative Council, recently joined the Canberra International Music Festival as artistic associate.
She appears regularly as a soloist and a consort singer in Sydney and Canberra, and is a regular collaborator with Peelman, among others.
In recent years, she has been a guest conductor with Sydney Children’s Choir, served as Director of Choirs at Radford College, the musical director of Canberra Community Chorale, and a tutor for the ANU School of Music H-Course Vocal Ensemble.
Percy’s winning work was Three Night Songs, written in isolation in NZ where she was stranded during the pandemic, and performed by the Sydney Chamber Choir.
She left teaching in 2014 to be a full-time mother to her young son. Spurred on by her love of choral music and desire to continue to contribute musically towards education, she used this time away from teaching to pursue a career focused on choral composition.
Many of Australia’s leading vocal ensembles have performed her music.
The Board of the Canberra International Music Festival has congratulated all three on their awards.
“The Canberra International Music Festival has been exceptionally fortunate to have someone of Roland Peelman’s calibre guiding us, now joined by newly appointed artistic associate AJ America,” the board said.
“Roland has set the standard for art music festivals in Australia with his work for CIMF, creating music that’s impeccably produced, innovative and diverse in every way. His many friends in Canberra and more widely will be celebrating this well deserved recognition.”
The board said America was a rising star and her Luminescence choir and junior Lumi ensemble had created choral magic for a new generation of Canberra music lovers.
“We’re delighted she now adds her talents to the CIMF roster of musical excellence. Warmest congratulations to both AJ and Roland, and also to Heather Percy for a long and successful career as a composer,” the board said.