News 14 September 2023

2023 Telstra ARIA Music Teacher Award Nominees Announced

The Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA) is thrilled to announce the 2023 Telstra ARIA Music Teacher Award nominees in partnership with Telstra and proudly supported by The Song Room.  

2023 Telstra ARIA Music Teacher Award Nominees Announced

The Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA) is thrilled to announce the 2023 Telstra ARIA Music Teacher Award nominees in partnership with Telstra and proudly supported by The Song Room 

Now in its seventh year, the Telstra ARIA Music Teacher Award helps shine a light on the importance of music education and the essential role that music teachers play, celebrating the incredible achievements of four outstanding music teachers from around Australia. 

Every year, the public help determine the winner of the Telstra ARIA Music Teacher Award, with the winner announced at the ARIA Awards on 15 November, broadcast on Channel Nine and Stan. 

The nominees were surprised by celebrated artist ambassadors, who each visited a school to share the exciting news. This year’s ambassadors are Kate Miller-Heidke, George Sheppard, Dami Im and Emma Watkins.  

Voting for the Telstra ARIA Music Teacher Award is now open! Cast your vote here. 

Meet the Nominees

Jess Copeman – Ainslie School, Ngunnawal Country, Canberra, ACT 

Jess was met by Kate Miller-Heidke to celebrate her nomination. Over the last eight years as music teacher at Ainslie School, Jess’ program has changed the perception of music education’s value in the community, fostering a life-long love of music and creativity where students thrive. Jess is an incredible leader and advocate for music education, impacting her students directly and building the knowledge and capacity of teachers for even greater, ongoing influence. 

Jess developed a school partnership with the Canberra Symphony Orchestra to bring their professional musicians to work with students and teachers as part of their own professional development.  She is also a committee member of the ACT Music Educators Network, where she collaborates with the University of Canberra on numerous projects to benefit students in the area, including the introduction of robot technology and developing an app that explores the connections between music and mathematics.  

Watch Kate Miller-Heidke’s meeting with Jess 

Peter Earl – The Music Guy, Dharug and Gundungurra Country, The Blue Mountains, NSW 

George Sheppard met Peter Earl aka ‘The Music Guy’ to present him with his nomination. Peter is the founder of The Music Guy: an organisation that provides fun, inclusive concert band programs for primary school students in the Blue Mountains and Western Sydney region, as well as music education resources for teachers and students. Through his organisation Peter has impacted hundreds of students and continues to provide opportunities for students who have limited access to music education.  

The Music Guy began when Peter, formerly an assistant principal at a local primary school, realised that very few schools in the area had any kind of band program largely due to the unavailability of tutors, resources and funding. After establishing a successful band program at the school, he then went on to provide concert bands in nine primary schools. The band program has been carefully designed to motivate and engage young minds with the use of body percussion, theatrics, games and more. 

Watch George Sheppard’s meeting with Peter

Hank Lewerissa – Upper Coomera State College, Yugambeh Country, Gold Coast, QLD 

Dami Im attended Upper Coomera State College to tell Hank Lewerissa of his nomination. Hank has taught music in the Gold Coast region for over 40 years, inspiring generations of students. Hank’s career as a music teacher is so extensive, he now teaches some of his original students’ grandchildren. 

The school’s choral program is one of Hanks’ biggest achievements and consists of senior choir, junior choir, and a vocal ensemble. The vocal groups regularly perform at eisteddfodau, showcase evenings, Anzac Day ceremonies, and musicals. Hank is a big believer in music being accessible to all, regardless of their abilities and circumstances. The music program is designed to unify his students, despite their backgrounds. 

Hank has received many accolades in his time, including an Australia Day Award for Services to Education in 2000, a Gold Coast Honours Silver Award for Education and a Department of Education award for 40 years of service. 

Watch Dami Im’s meeting with Hank

Sue Lowry – Southport Special School, Yugambeh Country, Gold Coast, QLD 

Sue was surprised by Emma Watkins to celebrate her nomination. For 10 years, Sue has taught music at Southport Special School: a state school with 225 students who have intellectual and physical disabilities, complex health needs and behavioural challenges. Her music program is designed and adjusted to the unique needs, skills and abilities of each individual student, ensuring the benefits of music education are accessible to all. 

Sue’s music program has a significant positive impact on her students, their families and the wider community. It has been shown to improve engagement, self-esteem, confidence, sense of belonging and social-connectedness – and most notably – it shatters the glass ceiling of expectations experienced by many people living with disabilities. 

Watch Emma Watkin’s meeting with Sue

The Telstra ARIA Music Teacher Award has quickly become one of the award’s most cherished categories as we recognise the importance of music education and our teachers, in forming the industry and inspiring the next generation of musicians. 

ARIA CEO, Annabelle Herd, said: “For the last seven years this very special award supported by Telstra and The Song Room, has helped shine a light on the remarkable effect of music education on students and the wider community. The four nominees for 2023 are not only amazing music teachers but exemplary members of society. We are absolutely honoured to celebrate their stories and illustrate the power of enthusiastic and dedicated music teachers, who set students on a path to love and respect music with a life-long passion, and sometimes, a music career that gives joy and impacts lives around the world.” 


Telstra Media, Sponsorship & Awards Principal, Genelle Sharples, said: “Telstra is extremely proud to provide continued support for the Telstra ARIA Music Teacher Award in 2023. We look forward to the opportunity to acknowledge and celebrate exceptional music teachers who have inspired children around Australia.” 

The Song Room CEO, Alice Gerlach, said: “Music education provides more than just the opportunity to participate in music at school – it helps young people to grow their confidence, connect with their peers, develop as life-long learners and even succeed in other subject areas. I am so inspired by these exceptional music teachers. Congratulations to the four nominees.” 

Previous winners of the Telstra ARIA Music Teacher Award include; Matt Orchard (2022, Apollo Bay P-12 College, Apollo Bay, Gaduband Territory, VIC), Zoe Barry (2021, Fitzroy Sacred Heart School, Fitzroy, VIC), Sarah Donnelley (2020, Wilcannia Central School, Wilcannia, NSW), 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).