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Freedman Jazz Finalists

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The Winner of the 2021 Freedman Jazz Fellowship is: 


Sydney-based guitarist and composer, Hilary Geddes, has been announced as the winner of the 2021 Freedman Jazz Fellowship, valued at $21,000. A versatile artist who has gained a reputation for her work in the jazz, indie-rock and art-music sector, Hilary represents an exciting future for Australian jazz.  

In a period where women are having an important and lasting impact on the global jazz scene, it was significant that three of this year’s four finalists were female. Hilary joins the 2020 winner, bassist Helen Svoboda, as the fourth young woman to win this prestigious award since Andrea Keller received the inaugural Jazz Fellowship in 2001. 

After several months of lock-down, the distinguished judges were trumpeter Nadje Noordhuis, saxophonist Loretta Palmeiro, pianist Stu Hunter and guitarist Ben Hauptmann who each appreciated the opportunity to experience the extraordinary musical talent that is flourishing in Australia.  

On behalf of the judging panel, Loretta Palmeiro said “The level of musicianship, imagination and ambition of the four Freedman finalists was truly inspiring. Each finalist showed an impressive level of thought and original creative process in their music making, and we anticipate great things from each of them, as they continue to develop their individual practices.” 

The decision to award Hilary the 2021 Fellowship was unanimous. Palmeiro says “Hilary is an intelligent and highly imaginative musician, and a sophisticated composer with an effortless flair for story-telling and the communicating of place through her music. Her distinctive voice, her extensive vocabulary as a jazz guitarist and her ability to communicate brilliantly across diverse styles is world class. Our only regret was to be unable to see the finalists perform due to lockdown restrictions. This is undoubtedly the best part of the Freedman Fellowship competition and we look forward to the return of the live element next year.   

Director of The Music Trust, Dr Dick Letts said of the 2021 Jazz Fellowship:    

The young candidates for the Freedman Jazz Fellowship reveal the cutting edge of jazz in Australia. It being jazz, they mostly are not only performing it, but inventing it through composition and improvisation, and the Freedman candidates do that superbly.   

With her Fellowship, guitarist Hilary Geddes is taking her band across the Riverina for performances and workshops, fostering a home-grown musical culture from the ground up, and simultaneously building the achievement of the band.  


Multidisciplinary guitarist originally from rural NSW, Hilary Geddes moves easily between jazz, indie rock and commissioned art music. Her Freedman fellowship means Hilary can organise a regional tour of the Riverina, Goulburn and Canberra with her band, the Hilary Geddes Quartet. 

The tour will involve liaising with local arts organisations such as Western Riverina Arts and Eastern Riverina Arts, regional conservatoriums, and schools to give workshops as well as performances. The band will also spend five days at The Cad Factory in the Riverina Arts Centre to rehearse and record new works written as part of the Fellowship. The recording will be released as the new album for the Hilary Geddes Quartet album with shows in Sydney and Melbourne to follow. 

Hilary recalls growing up in Griffith. A deep appreciation of music came from her parents, with family trips to Bluesfest at Easter forming a definite effect on her music.  “I started learning the guitar when I was six years old, and piano a few years later. I didn’t have a consistent guitar teacher until I moved to Sydney but I did have a fantastic piano teacher, Mrs Dawn Beaumont-Stevens, who really opened my ears to classical piano music and was very patient with me, especially when it came to sight reading! 

At Griffith High School, I encountered lots of incredible musicians who had remarkable aural skills and loved jamming and exploring grooves. Much of my guitar-learning came from trying to work out songs by ear so I could play with them.  I was always confident that music would be part of my life, although I don’t think I really committed to the idea of it being a career until I was accepted at the Sydney Conservatorium in 2014”. 

Hilary will be featured in “Visions of Nar” at the Sydney Opera Houses’ Utzon Room on Friday November 19 as part of the Sydney International Women’s Jazz Festival. 


The Freedman Jazz Fellowship is amongst the most prestigious award in Australia for a jazz musician. Ordinarily the winner is decided at a concert of the finalists at the Sydney Opera House. This year, it was not possible to hold a concert so the decision was made through consideration of recordings, written proposals for projects on which a candidate would spend the prize should they win, and interviews. For the first time the finalists were offered the services of a mentor to further refine and develop their project proposals. 

The Jazz Fellowship is funded by the Freedman Foundation, a philanthropic foundation chaired by Laurence Freedman, which assists young Australians in music and visual arts, as well as providing support to medical and scientific programs. Laurence and Kathy Freedman were made Members of the Order of Australia for service to the community, to medical research, the arts, and to business and investment in Australia. The Fellowships are managed by The Music Trust and administered by the Sydney Improvised Music Association.   

Past winners of the Freedman Jazz Fellowships include guitarists Ben Hauptmann and James Muller, saxophonists Julien Wilson, Andrew Robson and Matt Keegan, pianists Andrea Keller, Matt McMahon, Marc Hannaford, Aaron Choulai, Tal Cohen and Novak Manojlovic, trumpeters Nick Garbett and Phil Slater, bassists Christopher Hale and Helen Svoboda, vocalist Kristin Berardi and drummer James McLean.   [/vc_column_text][vc_single_image image=”6350″ img_size=”full”][/vc_column][/vc_row]