Just as the final days of 2015 tick by comes alarming news that one of Australia’s most prestigious music competitions, the ABC Symphony Australia Young Performer Awards, appears to be facing closure. Limelight Magazine reports that it obtained email correspondence from Symphony Australia which states that the annual awards will “not be continuing into the future”. Symphony Australia, which provides support services to Australia’s six state symphony orchestras, runs Young Performer Awards in partnership with the ABC, which inaugurated the competition in 1944.
The email Limelight has obtained continues: “As a result of [the planned] changes, Symphony Australia will no longer be running the YPA and we have been informed by the ABC that it is also not in a position to re-assume responsibility for directly managing the competition”.
Belt-tightening appears to be the reason for the decision. Limelight’s Maxim Boon writes: “The decision to discontinue the awards is in response to a major restructure of Symphony Australia’s activities, which will see the cessation of all national training programmes for emerging musicians from 2017”.
No official announcement about YPA’s future has been made. Nevertheless, this is seriously concerning news because YPA has occupied a prime position in young artist development in this country ever since it started seven decades ago. It has been the backbone in launching the careers of many of Australia’s most outstanding musicians such as Brett Dean, Julian Smiles, Duncan Gifford, Howard Penny and Roger Woodward – just to name a handful. More recent winners include Amy Dickson, Kristian Winther and Sophie Rowell.
The competition “is an opportunity like no other for up-and-coming Australian classical artists,” says the ABC itself, on its website. This year the prize money was more lucrative than ever, after a new Triffitt Prize was added for best performance of an Australian work.
We can only hope that with a cash-starved Symphony Australia, the ABC will come up with a solution to save YPA – and quickly.