Kyla Matsuura-Miller has won the 2021 Freedman Classical Fellowship.

The 28-year old violinist from Melbourne took pride of place in last night’s finals in which she competed against Molly Collier-O’Boyle (viola) and Eliza Shephard (flute) from Victoria, and Will Hansen (double bass) from New South Wales, taking home the Music Trust’s coveted $21,000 Fellowship. The concert was filmed in Sydney and Melbourne, and livestreamed by the Australian Digital Concert Hall.

Kyla Matsuura-Miller

Kyla Matsuura-Miller, winner of the 2021 Freedman Classical Fellowship. Photo © Suzie Blake

Matsuura-Miller will use the prize money on a project that will explore what it is like for Black, Indigenous and People of Colour (BIPOC) to be raised in Australia.

“My project aims to express and evoke elements of the collective cultural memory of being raised non-white in Australia,” she said. “The project is an opportunity to create something from a place of mutual compassion and shared experiences.”

She will work with filmmaker Tobias Willis, composer Stéphanie Kabanyana Kandekwe and two other composers yet to be selected, who will be invited to draw on their personal experiences as non-white Australians to create newly commissioned works for solo violin and optional electronics. The project will culminate in a live performance for Play On and via You Tube.

Born in Tokyo and raised in Melbourne, Matsuura-Miller graduated from the Australian National Academy of Music (ANAM) in 2018. The violinist and educator is currently working with Inventi Ensemble, Trio Clara, Duo Piaggio and Adam McMillan. She was an Emerging Artist with the Australian Chamber Orchestra in 2017, and in 2022 she will be the recipient of the Homophonic! Pride Prize.

Conceived by Laurence Freedman and Dr Richard Letts, the Freedman Classical Fellowship is offered annually to Australian classical musicians aged up to 30. Previous winners include Genevieve Lacey, William Barton, Joseph Tawadros, Claire Edwardes and Eugene Ughetti.

“Congratulations to Kyla Matsuura-Miller as this year’s choice for the Freedman Classical Fellowship,” said Letts, the Director of The Music Trust. “She showed us great musical awareness and achievement, a powerful stage presence and in her aspirations, a generous social conscience.”

“We are edging into a new era. All four finalists chose to support the music of Australian composers and the music of our time in their projects to be funded with the Fellowship prize. Two intended to build musical opportunities in the regional centres where they grew up. In their championing of new Australian repertoire, are they showing us the future for Australian audiences and for our large music organisations?”

For the finals of the Classical Freedman Fellowship, Matsuura-Miller played Takeda No Komoriuta (Lullaby of Takeda) a traditional Japanese folk song with Brandon Lee on Koto.

The judging panel, which comprised Penny Lomax, Tamara-Anna Cislowska and Véronique Serret said in a joint statement: “Tonight’s concert saw another outstanding display of innovative young classical artists who proved their commitment to new Australian work and dedication to their craft using a refreshing array of new ideas. In the end, it was Kyla Matsuura-Miller whose inspired approach to her instrument and insight into her choice of repertoire spoke to each of us. We are enthusiastic to see new music used as a vehicle to illustrate untold stories. Kyla’s project will see a greater level of inclusivity represented in both artists and audiences”.

On receiving the Fellowship, Matsuura-Miller said, “I  am so honoured to be named the Freedman Classical Fellow for 2021. Thank you to the Freedman Foundation and The Music Trust for granting me the opportunity to shine a light on new compositions by Black, Indigenous and People of Colour (BIPOC) Australian composers. It is a huge privilege and responsibility, and one that I do not take lightly. To be able to amplify new, unheard stories in classical music will hopefully leave a legacy for others to feel seen, heard and included in the Australian classical music scene.”