The Music Trust has announced three finalists for the prestigious 2016 Freedman Jazz Fellowship. This year’s contenders for the annual scholarship are drummer James McLean  and pianists Joe O’Connor and Luke Sweeting.

The finalists will now have the opportunity to compete for the $20,000 cash prize in a live performance ‘play-off’ at Freedman Jazz at the Sydney Opera House, with the winner to be announced on the night.

The finalists were judged in part on their proposed career enhancing project for which the prize money would be used.

National Jazz Award winner and Bell Young Artist of the Year recipient, pianist Joe O’Conner plans to develop a work titled Antique Dance as a collaboration between two contemporary dancers and his trio. The festival work would broaden the reach of O’Connor’s music, emphasizing hybrid art forms while providing an opportunity for O’Connor to develop as a producer.

We asked Joe what would it mean to you if you won The 2016 Freedman Fellowship?

Here is his answer. “I have been thinking a great deal recently about the way that jazz is produced and presented in Australia. We have a vibrant jazz culture with many great musicians but, like many niche independent art forms, the scene often tends to be insular and reflexive.

I am interested in the way that my own habits and assumptions can be challenged by working with artists in other disciplines. If I am fortunate enough to be awarded the Freedman Fellowship, I will develop a collaboration between my piano trio and two contemporary dancers, choreographed by Luigi Vescio. I am excited to discover how a focus on physical gesture and movement will carry my work into new aesthetic territory. I am also keen to explore ways that the visual language of dance furnishes audiences with alternate ways of engaging with my music.

My project would be presented at a major festival, most likely the Melbourne Fringe Festival, and would develop my ability to effectively stage and market ambitious improvised performances to audiences that may not have been exposed to Australian jazz.”


Freedman awards to be held on Monday 1 August at 7:30pm.

The judges, distinguished jazz musician/composers Stu Hunter, Laurence Pike and Brendan Clarke selected the three finalists from a group of 16 national candidates. 

MORE INFO on the event and where to buy tickets

More info on the other finalists

James McLean

Luke Sweeting

Link to Joe’s website