Entertainment |

Meet four nominees for the 2020 Telstra ARIA Music Teacher Award

By Genelle Sharples October 2, 2020

In the fourth year of the Telstra ARIA Music Teacher Award, we’re reminded of the fundamental importance of teachers – their teaching and learning techniques keep their students working and keep them connected through complex and difficult times. Music education, too, is a crucial part of supporting students’ development and wellbeing.

From hundreds of applications, Telstra, ARIA and leading arts organisation The Song Room have selected these four incredible teachers as finalists. Each of the four have very different stories, but all are connected by their passion for music and dedication to education. Now it’s your job to vote for a winner before we present them with this prestigious award at the 2020 ARIA Awards this November.

The teachers are the first nominees to be announced for the 2020 ARIA Awards in partnership with YouTube Music. More nominees will be announced on 13 October 2020 at the ARIA Awards season launch, and the awards ceremony with no audience will be held on 25 November 2020 and broadcast on the Nine Network.

We’re excited to introduce the four nominees for the 2020 Telstra ARIA Music Teacher Award:

Sarah Donnelley – Wilcannia Central School, Wilcannia, NSW



Thomas Fienberg – Evans High School, Blacktown, NSW


Kathryn McLennan – Virginia State School, Virginia, QLD


CJ Shaw – Palmerston District Primary School, ACT

This year’s nominees are truly world class, and the 2020 winner will join Antonio Chiappetta (2019, St Andrews College, Sydney, NSW), Scott Maxwell (2018, Grant High School, Mount Gambier, SA) and Renee McCarthy (2017, Woodcroft College, Adelaide SA) in celebrating a their well-deserved place in the ARIAs trophy cabinet. We’re delighted to be presenting the Telstra ARIA Music Teacher Award again this year. Music brings joy and has such power in bringing people together – something we’ve all come to appreciate even more during the challenges of this year so far.

The award itself is a highlight of the annual ARIA Awards ceremony and celebrates the vital and foundational role that music education plays in creating the next generation of award-winning artists and performers. Our music teachers nurture their students, and students who study music achieve better grades, better school attendance and increased mental health.

It’s now up to you to help determine the winner of the Telstra ARIA Music Teacher Award. Voting is open at the ARIA website, closing on 18 November 2020. The winner will be announced as part of the ARIA Awards on 25 November.

Entertainment |

Nominate an inspirational music teacher for the 2020 Telstra ARIA Music Teacher Award

By Genelle Sharples June 3, 2020

We’re now in our fourth year sponsoring the Telstra ARIA Music Teacher Award, and we’re thrilled to continue supporting Australia’s incredible music teachers as they lead, inspire and educate our nation’s kids. We need your help to find this year’s crop of awesome music teachers.

This year, perhaps more than any other, we’re reminded how fundamentally important our nation’s teachers are to us all. Throughout the year Australia’s music teachers infuse their passion for music with patience and genuine care for their students. And more recently they have had to adapt and embrace technology to continue their work.

This special ARIA Award, launched in partnership with The Song Room in 2017, rewards teachers for their hard work, creativity and dedication to their students and the wider community. By celebrating our amazing music teachers, it also helps to shine a light on the importance of music in building a growth mindset, self-esteem and student engagement.

ARIA Awards 2019 - Portrait Winners

Every year, ARIA asks the Australian public to nominate outstanding music teachers. They receive submissions from all parts of the country, and it is heartwarming to see the influence and positivity they bring to their communities under a variety of circumstances and constraints. What remains consistent amongst the teachers is their belief in the power of music education to enrich the lives of their students.

With this in mind, we want to recognise music teachers who have gone above and beyond to educate kids and help them develop in 2020.

The award has been won in previous years by Antonio Chiappetta (2019, St Andrews College, Sydney, NSW), Scott Maxwell (2018, Grant High School, Mount Gambier, SA) and Renee McCarthy (2017, Woodcroft College, Adelaide SA).

Entries are now open and a shortlist of four finalists will be announced at the ARIA Season Launch in October. Each shortlisted ARIA finalist will be partnered with a renowned Australian musician who will visit their school or music tuition program and help tell all of Australia about their work and the positive impact on their students.

Previous ambassadors for the Telstra ARIA Music Teacher Award include Conrad Sewell, Emma Wiggle, Guy Sebastian, Jessica Mauboy, Josh Pyke, Justine Clarke, Katie Noonan, Lior, Missy Higgins, Montaigne, Sheppard, and Thelma Plum.

Antonio and Conrad Sewell

A public and music industry voting process will then be conducted culminating in the announcement of the winner at the 2020 ARIA Awards in November.

If you know an inspiring music teacher nominate them now and help celebrate the exceptional influence they have on our kids as they develop a lifelong appreciation for the joy of music.

Entries close June 8, 2020. For more information, visit ARIA Music Teacher Award.

Entertainment |

And the Telstra ARIA goes to…

By KL Lambert December 4, 2019

Antonio Chiappetta hit all the right notes when he took home the Telstra ARIA Music Teacher of the Year Award for 2019.

From St Andrews College in Western Sydney, Mr Chiappetta has created a music program that inspires students, and the school’s other teachers, to try new things with their musical education.

A former student at the school, Mr Chiappetta’s own musical journey shouldn’t be overlooked. He toured Australia as a drummer and lead vocalist with his rock and hip-hop-inspired band King Farook, and has also supported some of music’s biggest international names acts, including Van Halen, Billy Joel and Aerosmith.

But it was his love of teaching and wanting to share his passion that brought him back to his old school.

He initiated the inaugural Creative Arts Night for the school, which has now grown to involve a music festival hosting 2000 people inside the school grounds – featuring his students up on stage performing, and students from other parts of the school helping backstage, with catering, logo design and event organisation.

We’ve sponsored this award for four years and when he received the award from Guy Sebastian, Mr Chiappetta knew it was recognition for a lot of hard work and a love for music.

“It’s such an honour to have the acknowledgment and to be here at an industry-recognised awards show,” Mr Chiappetta said at the awards. “We do so much for our kids. This kind of thing is really special.”

Congratulations Mr Chiappetta. Keep the beat.

Entertainment |

Meet the nominees for the 2019 Telstra ARIA Music Teacher of the Year Award

By Genelle Sharples October 11, 2019

As a sponsor of the Telstra ARIA Music Teacher of the Year Award, now in its third year, we’re proud to support Australia’s music teachers in their mission to provide children with a better education and the chance to play and enjoy music.

The TelstraARIAMusic Teacher of the Year Award has become a highlight of theARIAAwards ceremony, because it holds such special meaning to musicians and music lovers across Australia. The award recognises music teachers for their passion and hard work in providing Australian children with a better education and the chance to play and enjoy music. There is growing recognition worldwide of the value of creativity and the arts to improve education standards, and build a better connection for students to their school life in general.

Here are the four nominees for this year’s Telstra ARIA Music Teacher of the Year Award.

Julia Rennick – Gunnedah Public School, NSW

Julia is a long-serving music teacher working in the NSW community of Gunnedah. For many, Julia was their first ever music teacher: she brings the joy of musical education into her early childhood and learning programs for over 20 years. As a result of her many years of music teaching, her impact in the local community can only be described as generational. Julia also works with Parkinson’s patients to ensure that the benefits of music are brought to all ages in the local community.

Julia’s passion and contribution makes her a rock star in her community. She started 25 years ago developing the cutting-edge music education program she teaches today. Julia believes musical language can be learned alongside literacy for young children, and has spend decades seeing the benefits musical education has on young children. Watch the video where Emma Wiggle surprises Mrs Rennick’s young class and shares insights from the local community on why she’s been nominated for the Tesltra ARIA Music Teacher of the Year Award.

Antonio Chiappetta – St. Andrews College, Sydney, NSW

Antonio is recognised as the driving force behind stellar musical opportunities for students at Sydney’s St. Andrews College. Years ago, he pioneered the school’s Creative Arts Night (CAN) which has grown exponentially each year. It has now involved into a music festival inside the school grounds for over 2000 people each year. It brings in students from all over the school to contribute and get hands on in their education.

Antonio has inspired students from St. Andrews College to become music teachers themselves, and inspires others to try new things with their musical education.

Conrad Sewell travelled to Mr Chiappetta’s school to learn more about his work, why he was nominated, and even sing a song with the kids from the music class who already knew one of his songs.

Lee Strickland – Narbethong State Special School, Woolloongabba, Queensland

Narbethong State Special School provides specialised education for children with vision impairment and other disabilities. Lee goes above and beyond to make sure her kids get dedicated musical education. She customises her teaching and vernacular to each individual student to make sure that they get the best education to suit them.

Lee has developed programs via music that aim to develop translatable skills. There’s a piano program to help develop fine motor skills to aid in reading Braille; music communication to help students to learn how to say ‘yes’ and ‘no’ if they’re unable to say it verbally, and music movement session to help develop balance and coordination. She even customises instruments to make sure that students get access to help them learn.

Katie Noonan travelled to Brisbane to experience Ms Strickland’s incredible music room, and see the changes that music is making in the lives of kids.

Bel Skinner – Broome, NSW and Pilbara/Kimberley, WA

Based in Broome, Bel teaches music throughout the Pilbara and Kimberley regions of Western Australia. Driving tens of thousands of kilometres for her students in remote communities, Bel’s classroom is one of the biggest in the world.

Sometimes in small communities, Bel doesn’t even teach in a classroom at all. She works against the odds with a lack of resources in these communities to make sure that her students get the best education possible.

Musician Montaigne travelled to Broome to find out about Bel’s incredible work to bring music education to remote communities.

Voting for the Telstra ARIA Music Teacher of the Year Award is now open.

Entertainment | Telstra Foundation |

The ARIA Music Teacher of the Year: inspiring children through music

By KL Lambert November 12, 2018

Voting has opened in the ARIA Music Teacher of the Year award, sponsored by Telstra. The four nominees use music to inspire children from different backgrounds and personal struggles.

Becky Hall, Royal Children’s Hospital Education Institute – Victoria

Becky Hall teaches music to kids at the Royal Children’s Hospital Education Institute in Melbourne.

The children have serious and chronic health conditions.

“I absolutely love being a music teacher and to be able to share that with kids and help them learn to express themselves I think is really special,” Ms Hall said.

Becky started the integrated music program. If the patients are too unwell to make it to the dedicated music room, Becky goes bedside and takes the music to them.

She’s even developed and published ‘The Song Book’. It’s a book and CD together and is a compilation of songs the kids have helped to write as well as their page illustrations.

Deborah Skelton, Caladenia Primary School – Western Australia

The current face of Telstra’s advertising campaigns, Thelma Plum, travelled to Western Australia to meet nominee Deborah Skelton from Caladenia Primary School.

Mrs Skelton combines Auslan and Aboriginal languages into her music teaching.

“I get to spend my day making music with amazing young individuals,” Mrs Skelton said.

Since joining the school she has created a rock band, two choirs and an orchestra.

Scott Maxwell, Grant High School – South Australia

Scott Maxwell is the music teacher at Grant High School in Mt Gambier. Located five hours drive from Melbourne and five hours drive from Adelaide, the students at Grant High have embraced the musical enthusiasm brought by Mr Maxwell.

His nomination reflects the work he’s put in to bring the school’s music program back from the brink. The students are now cramming into his classes and desperate to be involved in the musicals that he writes.

He’s also implemented a song writing program.

“I think songwriting is really important for kids to engage on a different level. Where they’re not being told what to do, where they have the freedom to create,” Mr Maxwell said.

Dean Harawira, Nerang State High School – Queensland

Nerang State High School on the Gold Coast is where Dean Harawira brings his passion for music and education together to inspire the kids.

There’s a funk band that regularly performs outside the school and a school drum line. He’s taken them overseas to perform and have won national and international awards.

“The drum line and the funk band have benefited the school. I believe that when disengaged kids are mixing with high achieving kids it actually gives them a goal to strive for,” Mr Harawira said.

A positive and inspiring music teacher can mean so much to kids and can make a difference to their school experience.

Public voting for the ARIA Music Teacher of the Year Award is live and concludes 21 November 2018 at 11:59pm.

Click here to vote on the ARIA Music Teacher of the Year Award website.