For many young people pursuing a career in the arts, community support can bring them one step closer to their dreams.
That is something Zoe Gallagher-Avery knows first-hand: she was a recipient of a St Cecilia Youth Music Scholarship when she was eight years old.
“The scholarship enabled us to buy my first electric piano, and I did everything up until my diploma using it,” Ms Gallagher-Avery said.
“That prize money made a really huge difference, because I wouldn’t have been able to do what I did without it.”
Now, she is vice president of the committee behind the scholarships and helping to organise the 2023 scholarship program.
“It’s open to classical musicians and those who perform more contemporary music or more current pieces,” she said.
“We’re looking for people that are technically capable, but who have good performance craft and are passionate in their performance as well.”
Entrants can come from the Eurobodalla, Bega Valley and Shoalhaven shires and must be between eight and 18 years old as of 31 December 2023.
During the two-day audition period, they are judged by an independent adjudicator and scored across four categories, each worth 25 per cent.
Once the auditions are finished, which generally take two days, the finalists will perform at a concert at St Bernard’s Catholic Church in Batehaven.
“That concert is an opportunity for the kids who are finalists to see their hard work recognised, and for some of the older kids to make contact with our musicians in the area,” Ms Gallagher-Avery said.
“Especially for the solo instruments, it can be a bit lonely practising alone in a room, so it’s really nice for the students to remember that there are other people doing the same thing.”
There are 12 scholarships to be awarded in 2023, with prize money ranging from $200 to $1000.
Ms Gallagher-Avery said the money can be put towards covering the costs for up-and-coming musicians.
“Learning music can be expensive,” she said.
“One of the big and constant costs for musicians is lessons.
“It depends on what the teacher is charging, but the scholarship can cover an estimated six months of tuition, which is major.
“The same for instruments – there are some major upgrades that you can make with the first prize amount of $1000.”
For those thinking of applying, Ms Gallagher-Avery has simple advice: remember your passion for music.
“You want kids that are passionate, who live music.
“It’s not about being the ideal performer or being perfect.
“You’re playing a certain instrument and putting all of this time into music because it brings you joy and satisfaction and that you love certain pieces that move you.”
Ms Gallagher-Avery hopes the scholarship program helps young regional musicians keep playing and performing.
“The goal of the scholarship is to help encourage students that show they’ve got that passion and drive,” she said.
“I think it’s great to have a local program that the kids can work towards, and it feels a bit more tangible and thrilling than doing an exam.”
Further information can be found on the St Cecilia website. Applications must be submitted by 5 pm on 29 September.
Auditions will held on 7 and 8 October and the finalist concert will be held on 19 November.