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posted 21/10/2019

Winner of the 2019 Music Trust Freedman Classical Fellowship Announced

The winner of The Music Trust’s 2019 Freedman Classical Fellowship, Rohan Dasika, was announced yesterday after a thrilling showcase of artistry at the Sydney Opera House’s Utzon Room.

ROHAN DASIKA, double bass (photo: Martin Mischkulnig)

MC and ABC Classic Broadcaster Genevieve Lang led audiences through three distinct performances by three diverse finalists; Rohan Dasika (bass), Katie Yap (viola) and Jonathan Heilbron (bass). Baroque viola re-imagined and extended bass techniques were on display, each finalist demonstrating their vision of what the future of classical music could be in Australia.

Following performances by the finalists, internationally renowned guitarist and 2002 Freedman Fellow Karin Schaupp, took audiences into the prospective life of a Freedman Fellow with her masterful program for classical guitar.

2019 Freedman Classical judge, and Artistic Director of the Canberra International Music Festival, Roland Peelman said of the prestigious $20,0000 annual award: “the award provides an exceptional young musician to build a career that transcends our borders. Dasika, who proved today that the bass can sing as well as growl, will use his prize to explore Carnatic music and apply this to the double bass. It will enable him to travel to India and develop new pieces with artists such as Sandy Evans and Adrian Sheriff”.

Judge Sonya Lifschitz noted that “yet again, the Freedman Fellowship finalists concert reminds us that classical music, far from being a “museum of canonic works”, is a living, thriving, rapidly evolving artform that in the hands of the three finalists throbbed with excitement, vitality, imagination and new, uncharted sonic possibilities.”

Fellow judge Anna Melville commented “Whilst each of the three very unique finalists who performed today showcased remarkably individual artistry and aspirations, all were united in their mastery of their instruments and their creative conviction. I’m excited to see where the next chapter takes Freedman Fellow Rohan, and also Katie and Jonathan too, in their musical journey in Australia and beyond.”

Rohan joins jazz pianist Novak Manojlovic – awarded the Jazz Fellowship in September, as the 2019 Freedman Fellows.

Dr. Richard Letts from The Music Trust comments:

The rules for the Music Trust Freedman Classical Fellowship competition do not require competitors to perform particular works. They are invited to decide on a program that best represents their strengths and ambitions. It is a ‘classical music’ award that can include not only music from the heritage but what the music is becoming in our own age and our own country.

So the program for the Freedman Classical finalists’ concert this year let us hear how our best young performers hear ‘classical’ music in the year 2019. Music of Bach and Handel, new compositions some written for the performers, a combination of acoustic and electronically manipulated music. And the instruments performed? Baroque viola and for two performers, double bass. Accompanists: harpsichord, accordion, and electronics’. Has there been such an outcome of a major competition in the entire history of music?!

The Music Trust Freedman Fellowship Awards:

The Freedman Fellowship Awards are among the most prestigious offered to Australian musicians. They are awarded annually to a classical music instrumentalist and a jazz musician. Distinguished musicians from around the country are invited to nominate candidates from amongst whom three finalists are selected. The Freedman Classical Fellowship is managed by The Music Trust and administered and produced by Sydney Improvised Music Association (SIMA).


Double bassist, Rohan Dasika was born in Vancouver and raised in Melbourne. He currently enjoys a diverse career travelling between Germany and Australia. He has performed frequently with orchestras including the Frankfurter Opern-und-Museumsorchester, Melbourne Symphony Orchestra and Queensland Symphony Orchestra, while an association with leading accordionist James Crabb has led to engagements at chamber music festivals including the Australian Festival of Chamber Music, Four Winds Festival, and the Canberra International Music Festival. Passionate about new music, Rohan has also performed with the Lucerne Festival Academy, and at the Bendigo International Festival of Exploratory Music.

Rohan is a graduate of the Australian National University School of Music, Australian National Academy of Music, and has taken study trips to Philadelphia and Vienna, courtesy of an Australia Council ArtStart grant.

Rohan intends to commission two of the most experienced musicians who work between the Carnatic and Western music traditions, namely Sandy Evans and Adrian Sherriff, to write Carnatic-inspired notated pieces of music for solo double bass. He believes the compositions will add much needed new Australian repertoire to the double bass literature.

He also proposes to then present a recital including these two newly-written pieces of music in Chennai, India, the centre of Carnatic music. He notes “as well as the personal meaning inherent in my first visit to India, and subsequent exploration of my heritage there, creating links to a country relatively underexposed to my instrument, and this genre of music, could have numerous benefits career-wise, significantly widening my professional network.”As part of the touring component, Rohan wIll also use a portion of the Fellowship funds to pay for the deposit of the building of a newly-developed double bass, the SB21, by the French maker luthier Patrick Charton. This enables the instrument to be collapsed to make touring more possible and less expensive.

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