Winners announced for the 2013 APRA Professional Development Awards

APRA|AMCOS is proud to announce the winners of the bi-annual PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT AWARDS (PDAs). Nearly 40 judges, including Jason Mraz (US), Gary Clark (Scotland) and Josh Pyke (AUS), have reached their final decision, choosing eight songwriters and composers from a talented pool of almost 2000 music artists.

"The high calibre of artists entering the PDAs this year has been incredible across all genres,” said APRA|AMCOS CEO Brett Cottle.

“It’s great to know that through the PDAs we are able to harness and support such a high level of musicianship, creative talent and artistic creativity in this country. I am very confident our winners this year will go on to do great things for the Australian music scene, both at home and abroad.”

It is our pleasure to introduce to you to the winners of the 2013 APRA PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT AWARDS, who will each receive an invaluable career boost with $30,000 worth of prizes including $12,000 cash courtesy of APRA.

  • THOMAS CALDER (Popular Contemporary)
  • MORGAN EVANS (Country)
  • LEAH FLANAGAN (Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander)
  • HUSKY GAWENDA (Popular Contemporary)
  • GEORGI KAY (Popular Contemporary)
  • JOE TWIST (Film & Television)

Also announced today is pop/soul singer-songwriter AMALI WARD who is the recipient of the UTAS Stephen Schwartz Songwriting Award. Presented by The University of Tasmania Conservatorium of Music, this prestigious Award is valued at $10,000 and is offered to advance the career of an emerging individual songwriter or song writing team in the genre of pop, soul, gospel or musical theatre.

APRA sincerely thanks all our Partner Organisations who worked tirelessly to review the 100s of entries they received. We would also like to thank the 38 judges (professional songwriters and music industry professionals) who gave up their time to listen to and judge about the musical pieces entered.

APRA, its Partner Organisations and judges, proudly congratulate all the winners of the 2013 PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT AWARDS.

Thomas Calder

In April 2011 THOMAS CALDER, at age 20, gathered all the gear he could find and recorded mini-album “Bleeders” in his Brisbane home. Even the most cursory airing of Thomas Calder’s striking debut will leave the listener with no doubt: this boy is special.

The debut received glowing praise from fans, press & blogs alike. Thomas was a finalist in the International Songwiting Competition and in June 2012 the act (The Trouble With Templeton) underwent a spectacular transformation – becoming an epic, five-piece band.

This year is set to be huge for Calder with invitations to SxSW, Canadian Music Week and The Great Escape, Australian tours, a new single ‘Like A Kid’ out now and the band’s new album due for release June 2013.

Morgan Evans

Newcastle singer-songwriter MORGAN EVANS has racked up another career milestones receiving the APRA PDA in the Country category today.

Morgan’s triumphant win at the 2007 Telstra Road to Tamworth Grand Final propelled his already fast-rising career into high gear. The prize included a trip to Nashville, where he was invited to perform in front of 68,000 fans at the CMA Music Festival in LP Field and touring performances with Taylor Swift, Brooks & Dunn, Jon Stevens, Joe Nichols, Toni Childs, Shannon Noll, Glenn Frey (Eagles), and more.

He recorded his debut single, Big Skies, in Nashville and released it later that year to great acclaim. In 2008, Morgan received two Golden Guitar nominations for New Talent of the Year and Video of the Year, and threw himself into a relentless touring schedule. His most current release is five-track EP, ‘Live Each Day’.

Leah Flanagan

LEAH FLANAGAN has received the APRA PDA in the Aboriginal Torres Strait Islander category.

A storyteller at heart with the voice of an angel, Leah Flanagan can also wield a mean ukelele. As hometown Darwin locals will attest, this darling of the tropical north, has been playing original songs to passionate acclaim since she could swing a tune but now the rest of the world is quickly catching on.

Since the release of her 2010 acclaimed album Nirvana Nights, a tribute to a small, defiantly seedy bar in Darwin, Leah has been going from strength to strength.

She’s been winning the hearts of audiences at festivals and selling out venues across the country with her honesty, charm and musical prowess.


Picking up a PDA in the Classical category is ALEXANDER GARSDEN - a multi-disciplinary sound artist who works in the fields of contemporary and improvised music.

Based in Melbourne, his output consists of chamber works, electro-acoustic media and chamber opera and free improvisation. He is currently undertaking a Masters of Music through the University of Melbourne under Dr Elliott Gyger and his music has been performed nationally and internationally by ensembles including the Golden Fur Trio, Atticus Quartet, Chamber Made Opera and SPEAK! Percussion.

As a performer, Alexander's idiosyncratic approach to acoustic guitar performance has led him to be recognised as an exciting new voice in the younger generation of Melbourne's improvised and experimental music communities.

Husky Gawenda

Also receiving an APRA PDA in the Popular Contemporary category is HUSKY GAWENDA who has been singing and writing songs since he was a kid. He began writing poetry and songs and learnt classical piano until he was 12, when he fell in love with his uncle's nylon string guitar.

After years of busking with his sister on the streets of Melbourne, writing music for various stage shows including Fringe Festival production 'Girl', he put together 'Husky', featuring some of Melbourne's best musicians and penned the songs for his acclaimed album Forever So. The album was released in Australia to much acclaim and was followed by a sold out national tour, during which Husky was announced as a finalist for the Vanda and Young Songwriting Competition. Husky is currently writing his second album, at home in Melbourne.
Georgi Kay

Rounding out the Popular Contemporary category is GEORGI KAY from Perth.

At the age of 10 left-handed Georgi taught herself to play her dad’s electric guitar upside down, listening to his diverse range of music. At 17, Georgi Kay won the Song Of The Year WAMi for "Breakfast in Bedlam".

She is also the co-writer and vocalist on Ivan Gough & Feenixpawl's track "In My Mind", which won Best Dance Release at the 2012 ARIA Awards. In between, she has been working on songs for her debut album. Stay tuned for an EP to be released soon.

Matthew Sheens

Musician and world citizen MATTHEW SHEENS has scored the PDA in the Jazz category. Currently based in New York City (via Adelaide), he became interested in jazz performance and composition and received the Jack De Vos Scholarship at the Elder Conservatorium.

Matthew was the first Australian to win a Downbeat Magazine Student Award (for best soloist, 2009 and again in 2011) and received a scholarship to undertake his Masters in Jazz. Upon graduating in 2011 he moved to New York City where he currently works as a performer, composer, arranger and teacher.

He has performed original music around the world and has performed with many musical luminaries including Bob Mintzer, Paul Bollenback, Bob Moses, Cecil McBee, Jim Pugh, John Hoffman, John Patitucci

Joe Twist

JOE TWIST has scored the APRA PDA in the Film & Television category. His eclectic experience as a composer, arranger and musician has involved vocal and instrumental concert music, as well as jazz, cabaret and film music.

He is a recipient of the Brian May Scholarship for Film Music and currently resides in the United States, undertaking the Scoring for Film and Multimedia Masters degree at New York University.

Twist's work has included arrangements for The Wiggles, David Hobson and Teddy Tahu Rhodes, Gondwana Choirs and the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra. His film works include the scores for Tim Marshall's Gorilla and Brendon McDonall's The Law. Twist is currently working on many film scores and concert works, including new works for the NYU Symphony Orchestra after receiving a composer residency with the orchestra for 2013.

Amali Ward

The 2013 UTAS Stephen Schwartz Songwriting Award recipient is composer/lyricist AMALI WARD a pop/soul singer and songwriter. Influenced by the Motown era, Amali's music is timeless, but this isn't just a throwback to something you've heard before. Amali's charismatic vocals and witty lyrical style are undoubtedly her own.
After appearing in the top 12 of Australian Idol at just 16, Amali released a self-written/produced independent EP. She spent the next few years honing her songwriting chops, writing in the US with heavyweight songwriters before eventually returning to Australia to finish writing her debut album with longtime collaborator Beau Golden.

Recorded in Los Angeles, her entirely self-written/co-written debut 'Back In Time', due for release in early 2013, features the track Knock You Out, which won the international John Lennon Songwriting Contest earlier this year. Runners up JOEL LEFFLER and SIMON HUDSON will also each receive a cash prize.