Finalists Announced in ARIA Music Teacher of the Year Award

Image Caption: Renee McCarthy, Woodcroft College SA. Image Credit: ARIA
Graham Strahle
| October 23, 2017

One way to improve music education is to raise the profile of music teachers. And one way of doing the latter is by setting up awards that recognise the outstanding work that school-based and private music teachers achieve in contributing to the musical lives of young people. The ASME Music Educating for Life Awards, an initiative of the Australian Society for Music Education, have been running each year since 2013 and meets the recipient’s costs of attending its national conference. Janice Purdie of SA was this year’s winner.

A new award being offered this year by the Australian Recording Industry Association Music is the ARIA Music Teacher of the Year Award. Being linked to music industry, the way this new award works across the spectrum of music education from kindergarten to secondary schools and private teaching will be interesting to see. We have looked at how it operates by a nomination process like ARIA’s music industry awards. To help promote the program, ARIA lines up high profile artists to advocate for music teachers who have been shortlisted for the award.

The four teachers shortlisted for the inaugural Music Teacher of the Year Award this year have been announced. They are Julie Layt of Crescent Lagoon State School, Rockhampton (QLD), which is a primary school that has introduced sign language into its two choirs. Stephen McEwan teaches at Bellarine Secondary College, a multi-campus school with its main campus for students in years 9, 10, 11 and 12 at Drysdale (VIC).

Renee “Mack” McCarthy teaches at Woodcroft College, Morphett Vale (SA), an independent Anglican K-12 school with a large, 90-member concert band at the centre of its music program. Alex Manton of Asquith Girls High School, Asquith (NSW), has linked her school up with a neighbouring boys school to form a combined band program. Congratulations to them all. They have received visits to their school by, respectively, Jessica Mauboy, Lior, Josh Pyke and Missy Higgins; and the winner will be announced at the ARIA Awards on 28 November.

It is good to see the visibility of music teachers being raised in this way. Many more of course deserve credit and continue to give of themselves without wider public recognition. It is a pity that the federal government pulled its funding for the National Awards for Excellence in School Music Education that were administered by ASME and ran until 2011. ASME says this award scheme “had some impact on publicly recognising the achievements of outstanding music teachers and school leaders which indirectly had some positive effect on the status of school music education”. One hopes it may be revived.

Stay in the loop

Music Australia updates straight to your inbox

Follow Like
Quick Links


  • National clearing house for policy & development

  • Music Journal

    Features articles about the Music Industry Sector

  • Music Talks

    Series of seminars exploring music