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National Chamber Music Championship 2020

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To celebrate its 75th anniversary in 2020, Musica Viva Australia is proud to announce the introduction of a National Chamber Music Championship for secondary-school-aged students with support from Creative Victoria and in partnership with Melbourne Recital Centre and the Australian National Academy of Music (ANAM).

The annual championship will give secondary school students from all over Australia the opportunity to experience the joy of making chamber music. Open to ensembles of between three and eight performers, the competition will enable 12 groups representing at least six states and territories to travel to Victoria for a finals weekend livestreamed from Melbourne Recital Centre from 4 – 6 September 2020.

A national teachers’ conference running alongside the finals weekend in partnership with aMuse will focus on inspiring and relevant ways to support music in teaching practice.

Victorian Minister for Creative Industries, Martin Foley, said, ‘The Victorian Government is proud to support the National Chamber Music Championship, which will foster Australia’s next generation of music talent and support music teachers from across the country.’

‘The Championship, which will bring talent from across the nation to Melbourne, is yet another demonstration of Victoria’s vibrant music culture and our reputation as the creative state.’

‘In choosing to celebrate Musica Viva’s 75th year with the National Chamber Music Championship and encouraging young people to engage with this rewarding artform, we affirm our commitment to making Australia a more musical place,’ adds Musica Viva CEO, Hywel Sims. ‘We are dedicated to bringing the joy of chamber music to everyone and supporting the musicians and audiences who will make chamber music flourish for the next 75 years.’

At the core of the Championship is an emphasis on the lifelong enrichment, personal satisfaction and social connections created by chamber music. A unique feature of the championship is also the encouragement of broad participation. Ensembles of any configuration are encouraged to apply, including one-to-a-part vocal groups, ensuring opportunities for those without access to instruments and specialist teachers.

Renowned violinist, chamber musician, teacher and former Melbourne Symphony Orchestra concertmaster, Wilma Smith, continues as Musica Viva’s Artistic Director of Competitions after the successful delivery of the 2018 Melbourne International Chamber Music Competition. 

‘I hope we will attract groups of many kinds, hopefully some of the standard formations such as string quartets, piano trios, quartets and quintets, wind quintets, brass quintets, but also more eclectic combinations and some unusual instruments,’ says Smith.

‘I hope students of any level will have a go. We have designed this competition to be as accessible as possible, including through travel subsidies for those who need help to get to Melbourne. Chamber music doesn’t have to be just for the elite, although I hope we attract plenty of those with professional aspirations too.’  

These measures to tackle geographical disadvantage are central to the development of the new championship. First round video auditions, performed in front of a live audience, as well as help with finding appropriate equipment, venues and local supporting organisations will ensure both regional and metropolitan groups can participate.

Melbourne Recital Centre CEO Euan Murdoch says, ‘Providing a stage for talented musicians of all ages is in the Centre’s DNA. Complementing the Centre’s concerts, masterclasses and learning programs, the National Chamber Music Championship provides more transformative performance opportunities for Australia’s young musicians, including playing in Australia’s premier live music venue, Melbourne Recital Centre. We’re delighted to nurture Australian talent and bring passionate young artists and audiences together.’

Alongside cash prizes for first ($5,000), second ($4,000) and third ($2,500) place during the finals weekend, additional prizes will be awarded to deserving applicants of all levels, including those that do not reach the semi-final stage.

The ANAM prize for a deserving string quartet entrant will offer a week’s worth of coaching at the institution and a performance in their unique portable venue, Quartetthaus, including travel costs.

‘ANAM is delighted to partner with Musica Viva Australia and Melbourne Recital Centre in delivering the National Chamber Music Championship,’ says Nick Bailey, General Manager of ANAM. ‘We’re excited to meet next year’s crop of chamber music champions and we applaud Creative Victoria and Musica Viva for their commitment to sharing the benefits of music with young Australians everywhere.’

 ‘Long term, I’d love to see hundreds of groups entering every year; kids of all abilities and levels getting together to play in live, local, first rounds all around the country, and then in regional finals before the national finals, so the championship is like a popular sport,’ effuses Smith.

‘Looking forward decades into the future, generations of kids will have grown up with a love and knowledge of chamber music. Many will still be playing and socialising regularly as amateurs and some as professionals. Most of them will be avid audience members too!’  

The National Chamber Music Championship is made possible thanks to the following major partners:

Media enquiries: Adele Schonhardt, Media & Public Affairs Manager | Musica Viva Australia

E [email protected] | M 0457 727 379 

2020 National Chamber Music Championship


First Round Entries Open:                             29 January 2020

First Round Entries Close:                             21 May 2020

Semi Finals & Finals weekend:                    4 – 6 September 2020


First Prize:                           $5,000

Second Prize:                     $4,000

Third Prize:                         $2,500

ANAM Prize:                       A week’s coaching at the Australian National Academy of Music, including travel costs


Other prizes will be awarded to deserving applicants of all levels who do not reach the Semi Final stage.

Instrumentation & repertoire entry requirements

Three to eight players who are full-time secondary school (or home school equivalent) students. Players do not all need to be from the same school.

Any combination of instruments, including voice.

One player/singer per part, no conductor.

Repertoire should be ‘classical’ in style (no jazz, musical theatre or pop music).

Performance time of 4 – 12 minutes of an entire work, or one or more movements from a larger single work.

Championship outline

First Round (video): Ensembles submit a video of their performance, filmed in front of a live audience of 15+ people.

Semi Finals: 12 groups, from at least six states and territories, will be selected for the Semi Finals at Melbourne Recital Centre during the finals weekend.

Grand Final: Six groups will be selected from the semi-finalists to perform in the Grand Final at Melbourne Recital Centre at the culmination of the finals weekend.    

Travel subsidies will be available to selected groups requiring extra assistance in attending the Finals Weekend to perform. 

Wilma Smith, former Concertmaster of the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra and internationally respected chamber musician, continues as Artistic Director, Competitions and Artistic Director of the Championship.

Chamber music is music with friends and a source of lifelong enrichment, personal satisfaction and social connection. Musica Viva want to create opportunities for potential future professionals, but more importantly, to increase and diversify lifelong participation in chamber music across Australia, encouraging ‘social music’ for all.

Teachers’ Conference

Delivered in partnership with aMuse, a national teacher’s conference will run concurrently to the finals weekend (4 – 6 September 2020) in Melbourne, with a focus on topics relating to chamber music coaching in secondary school environments. Attendees will gain a stronger sense of how to support chamber music and other music programs in their schools, with guest speakers and opportunities to develop and practice skills.

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