Press Release – June 2008

The 2008 Brian Stacey Award

(for emerging Australian Conductors)
as part of Live Theatre Australia’s Helpmann Awards

The ‘Stacey baton’ will be passed to both Paul Fitzsimon and Vanessa Scammell, the joint winners of the 11th Brian Stacey Award. (see biographies below)

In spite of his tragic early departure from the world, incredible love and respect for Brian Stacey continues to permeate through the Stacey Trust and it’s supporters, which keeps Stacey’s legacy alive today.

When the much-loved Australian Conductor, Brian Stacey died in a motorcycle accident on 25 October 1996, the night before the premiere of Sunset Boulevard in Melbourne, Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber described “Stacey’s” death as “a loss to the world of music theatre, not just Australia”.

Stacey’s musical career was remarkable for its breadth of interest and expertise. Stacey resisted being pigeon-holed into any particular genre; indeed he firmly believed that his experiences in one genre informed and improved his performances in another. In the last year of his life Stacey conducted ballet, opera, musicals, concerts and recordings, as well as participating in a number of other musical projects.

In establishing the Brian Stacey Memorial Trust in 1997, Stacey’s family, friends and colleagues chose to honour his professional choices by creating an award that would help to encourage emerging conductors to gain experience, in particular by crossing art-form barriers.

Guy Noble was the first Stacey Award recipient in 1998, given funding to record his new flute concerto for the ABC. From 1999 – 2001 the Stacey Award was part of the Young Conductor of the Year programme, managed by Symphony Australia. In 2002 the Stacey Award became part of the national Helpmann Awards, thus reflecting its belief that the Stacey Award, like it’s namesake, should not be confined to any single area of musical endeavour.

Winners include Kellie Dickerson, Benjamin Northey, Simon Hewett, Mark Shiell, Olli Cuneo and Dane Lam, all incredible visionaries for Australia’s music-making identity and forging outstanding careers in classical, ballet, opera and music theatre genres.

Due to the Arts Centre generously donating a plaque in the State Theatre dedicated to the memory of Brian Stacey, the extra $1,000 raised for this purpose has been able to go directly toward the Stacey Award. Paul and Vanessa will each receive a $3,000 prize.

Paul Fitzsimon

Winner 2008 Brian Stacey Award

Paul Fitzsimon.jpg

Currently the Assistant Conductor of the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, Paul Fitzsimon graduated from the University of Melbourne where he completed a Bachelor of Music majoring in piano performance under Stephen McIntyre.

In 2001 and 2002 he was an assistant conductor with the Melbourne Youth Orchestra and since 2003 has been an active participant in the Symphony Australia Conductor Development Program, working with Gianluigi Gelmetti, János Fürst, Sir Charles Mackerras, Christopher Seaman and others. As part of these courses he has conducted performances with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra in 2003, 2005 and 2007.
In 2003 Paul attended the conducting classes at the Academia Musicale Chigiana in Siena, Italy, with Maestro Gianluigi Gelmetti, and was funded by the Sydney Symphony to live in Sydney and study further with Maestro Gelmetti in early 2004.

In June 2006 Paul attended a master class by János Fürst at the Royal Academy of Music in London, funded by an Australia Council grant.

For the 2006 Melbourne International Festival, Paul conducted the Australian premiere of Sofia Gubaidulina’s Hommage a T. S. Eliot, and as part of his assistant conductorship with Melbourne Chorale in 2007 he conducted the world premieres of new works by Australian composers Ian Munro and Stephen Wood, broadcast on ABC FM.

Paul conducted a performance of Wagner’s Die Meistersinger Overture with WASO as part of the 2007 Symphony Australia Young Performer Awards Grand Final and also a performance of Purcell’s Dido & Aeneas at Chapel off Chapel. In December last year he conducted the Australian premiere of Rodion Shchedrin’s The Sealed Angel with Melbourne Chorale.

Paul hopes to use his $3,000 Stacey Award prize to assist him in attending the Sir George Solti International Conducting Competition in Frankfurt, Germany in November this year.

Vanessa Scammell

Winner 2008 Brian Stacey Award

Vanessa Scammell.jpg

In 1992 Vanessa graduated from the Melbourne Conservatorium with a Bachelor of Music – Honours in Piano Performance and a Bachelor of Music Education. Vanessa continued her studies at the Sydney Conservatorium completing a Graduate Diploma of Music – Opera Repetiteur.

Vanessa worked extensively as an opera repetituer/rehearsal pianist and coach for the Victoria State Opera, Opera Australia and many Music Theatre Productions before she began her conducting studies.

Vanessa’s Music Director/Conductor credits include THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA Asian Tour, The Really Useful Group Shanghai, Seoul, Taipei, Hong Kong and Singapore, FIDDLER ON THE ROOF Fiddler on the Roof Australia Pty Ltd, TITANIC  Seabiscuit Productions,  SOUTH PACIFIC Adelaide and Sydney seasons, Seabiscuit Productions, CATS The World Tour, Bejing, Taipei, Athens and  the South Korean Tour of CATS The Really Useful Group/Seol and Co., INTO THE WOODS IMG/Equity Fights Aids

Vanessa is currently the Musical Director of the Australian tour of THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA and is studying her Masters of Music in Conducting at the Sydney Conservatorium. She is looking forward to conducting ‘Damn Yankees’ for The Production Company later this year and would like to acknowledge her conducting professors, Vladimir Vais and Imre Pallo.

Vanessa will use her $3,000 Stacey Award prize to help fund her Masters of Music in Conducting at the Sydney Conservatorium under Maestro Imre Pallo.
Andrea Gaze
Administrator for the Brian Stacey Memorial Trust