National Jazz Awards

2012 Finalists

Congratulations to Kristin Berardi, winner of the 2012 National Jazz Awards, also Kate Kelsey-Sugg (second), and Liz Tobias (third).

Congratulations also to the 10 jazz vocalists who were chosen to perform in the finals of the 2012 National Jazz Awards at this year’s Wangaratta Jazz festival:

  • Cyrille Aimee, 28, from France (currently based in New York)
  • Kristin Berardi, 31, from Sydney
  • Briana Cowlishaw, 23, from Sydney
  • Luara Karlson-Carp, 21, from Brisbane
  • Kate Kelsey-Sugg, 23, from Melbourne
  • Joshua Kyle, 26, from Melbourne
  • Chantal Mitvalsky, 29, from Melbourne
  • Judith Perl, 23, from Melbourne
  • Liz Tobias, 28, from Adelaide (currently based in Boston)
  • Katie Wighton, 24, from Sydney

(Ages shown are as at the 1st November 2012).

The ten were chosen after the 3 judges (Mike Nock, Michelle Nicolle and Vince Jones) assessed over 60 recorded entries on a ‘blindfold’ basis. They performed at Wangaratta with an outstanding band : Sam Keevers (piano), Sam Anning (bass) and Raj Jayaweera (drums).


Currently based in New York, Cyrille was born in Fontainebleau, France. Her first love in jazz was the manouche, or ‘gypsy swing’, style. She went on to study jazz in New York, and performed and travelled in the USA, Europe and the Dominican Republic, before winning first prize at the jazz singing competition at the Montreux Jazz Festival in 2007.
Cyrille won third place in the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition in 2010. Recent years have seen Cyrille release several albums, performing regularly at leading jazz clubs in New York with her Surreal Band, and touring with the Hot Club of Detroit, Caravan Palace, the Chicago Jazz Orchestra and in a duo with guitarist Diego Figueiredo.
(Note : The National Jazz Awards have always been open to artists of any nationality. Several New Zealanders have been finalists, or even winners, in the Awards in past years ; but Cyrille is the first international finalist from another country, other than New Zealand).


Kristini grew up in Koumala, a small country town on the Bruce Highway, in Queensland. She studied for her Bachelor of Music at the Brisbane Conservatorium of Music, where she says her teacher Irene Bartlett was extremely influential.

Kristin was a finalist in the National Jazz awards in 2005 (she won 3rd prize), and won the Jazz Singing Competition at the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland in 2006. She has performed with such notable musicians as Mike Nock, James Sherlock, Richard Maegraith and the Jazzgroove Mothership Orchestra, and has won two Bell awards for Best Jazz Vocal Album of the Year in 2012 and 2010.

She says, “I am very grateful to have received some recognition as a jazz musician here and in some parts overseas… and I am thankful for the privilege to be able to sing and teach, and share music with others.”


Briana Cowlishaw is a Sydney raised 23 year old vocalist and composer, whose itchy feet have led her bouncing back and forth between New York and Sydney over the past 2 years. Briana graduated from the Australian Institute of Music (AIM) in 2008. She recorded her debut album When Fiction Comes to Life, in New York in 2010, with renowned New York musicians Aaron Goldberg, Reuben Rogers, Gregory Hutchinson, Ambrose Akinmusire and Mike Moreno. She performed at Wangaratta Jazz last year, and has also performed at venues like Bennetts Lane and Paris Cat in Melbourne, The Ellington in Perth, NIMA in Newcastle, Venue 505 and The Sound Lounge in Sydney.

Her influences range from Nancy Wilson, Ellis Regina and Ahmad Jahmal to the Beatles, Joni Mitchell, James Taylor and Bach, Briana’s approach to jazz singing and composition is quite unique. Briana has studied in New York with singer/songwriters, jazz vocalists and musicians including Becca Stevens, Alan Hampton, Ryan Scott, Gretchen Parlato, Chris McNulty, Barry Harris, Aaron Goldberg, Kurt Elling and Sean Wayland. Most recently, Briana attended the Creative Music International Workshop in Banff (Canada), to study with Dave Douglas and other talented mentors like Vjay Iyer, Luis Perdomo, Clarence Penn, Joshua Roseman, and Tyshawn Sorey.


Luara was born in the mountains of Montana, USA before relocating to Bellingen in NSW when she was 4 years old. In 2008 she began classical voice lessons and won the David and Gillian Helfgott Scholarship for Voice. She enrolled in a Bachelor of Music majoring in Jazz voice at the Queensland Conservatorium where she is now in her third year of study. There she has received tuition from Steven Newcomb, Zac Hurren and Irene Bartlett. She is also singer for the Con’s renowned big band the Con Artists, under the leadership of John Hoffman.

This June she made the pilgrimage to New York City and Boston where she studied with Ran Blake and Dominique Eade of New England Conservatory where she eventually hopes to undertake postgraduate study.

Luara’s musical influences include Joni Mitchell, Betty Carter, Wayne Shorter and others too numerous to mention. This year she has performed at the Brisbane, Magnetic Island and Broadbeach jazz festivals as well as numerous other venues throughout her home base in Brisbane. She was also selected as a finalist in this year’s James Morrison Generations in Jazz vocal scholarship. Luara is delighted and honoured to be a part of the National Jazz Awards.

Kate Kelsey-Sugg

Kate Kelsey-Sugg was born in Adelaide, and moved with her family to Melbourne at age 10. Kate is a vocalist, pianist and saxophonist who graduated from the Victorian College of the Arts (VCA) in 2010 with first class honours.

One of Kate’s most significant mentors and influences is her father, jazz saxophonist, Andy Sugg. Kate recently returned from three months in New York where she undertook a mentorship with pianist Jason Moran, and also  studied with Kurt Elling.

Kate received first place in the James Morrison Vocal Scholarship in 2010 and has since performed alongside James Morrison on numerous occasions. She has  also performed as a vocalist with Rickie Lee Jones, Joss Stone and Mavis Staples, and has performed at the Sydney Opera House, the Wangaratta Jazz Festival, Melbourne International Jazz Festival, Melbourne Festival and Stonnington Jazz Festival.


Josh says : “I grew up on the Mid North Coast of New South Wales in a small town with not a whole lot of jazz around. I started taking singing lessons during school and my interest in Jazz grew from there. Moving to Sydney to finish high school, I went on to study at the Australian Institute of Music studying closely with saxophonist Sean Coffin. I’ve spent a lot of time singing with Sydney Jazz greats Joy and Dave MacRae and their group Jubilation who have both been great supporters and mentors.

“Moving over to London in 2009, I was lucky enough to work with bassist/producer Geoff Gascoyne (known for his work with Jamie Cullum) and other UK greats. Recording my debut album Possibilities, I was lucky enough to play some great venues in the UK. Highlights so far have been releasing the album at The London International Jazz Festival, being chosen for  album of the week on Jazz FM UK and airplay on BBC Radio 2 & 3. Then  bringing the album home earlier this year, and playing at The Stonnington Jazz Festival, Darling Harbour Jazz Fest and other venues during the national tour.”


Chantal Mitvalsky is from Melbourne, and graduated with a Bachelor of Music Performance from the Victorian College of the Arts in 2005 under the tutelage of Michelle Nicholle, Alison Wedding and Christine Sullivan. Chantal performs regularly in Melbourne, interstate and overseas with musical mentor Bob Sedergreen and a variety of bands including Cannonball and Jackson Jackson. She was a featured performer on the Blue Drag album with Nigel MacLean, Joe Chindamo and Kate Ceberano and toured Japan with Blue Drag in 2009. More recently, Chantal has performed as lead female vocalist alongside pianist Daniel DeBorah in Cantor Production’s ‘Dudley Moore, the Man and his Music’ at the Atheneum Theatre and ‘Glenn Miller Reflections’ at the Melbourne Town Hall. In 2012 Chantal was selected to attend the International Jazz Workshop in Jazz and Creative music at The Banff Centre, Canada.


Jude Perl is a singer, pianist and songwriter based in Melbourne, born in Winona, Texas. She has been heavily influenced by Stevie Wonder, Carole King, Sarah Vaughan, Antonio Carlos Jobim, Ray Charles, Chaka Khan, Prince, Ella Fitzgerald and The Beatles in her repertoire choice, performance style and songwriting.

Jude has just recorded a 5 track EP of her original funk/pop tunes, set to be released in the coming months. She regularly performs around Melbourne (both at music venues and for private functions) as a soloist, with several funk and soul bands (including her original band) as well as with duos or trios playing jazz and Brazilian tunes.

Currently in her final semester of her music degree at Monash University, Jude has been exposed to some wonderful music and teachers during her time at Monash. Notably the exciting discovery of Brazilian music via Doug De Vries, as well as ensembles and lessons with Tony Floyd where Jude developed her songwriting and ultimately realized her desired musical direction and passions.

Jude is extremely grateful for this opportunity to perform at the Wangaratta Jazz Festival! For more information on Jude, please visit her website or add her on facebook.

Liz Tobias

Liz Tobias grew up in the gospel and soul music scene of Adelaide, which is evident in her singing style. Liz is no stranger to jazz singing competitions. She has been a finalist in the  James Morrison Vocal Competition, won first prize at the 2009 International Jazz Voicingers Competition (Poland) and was a semi-finalist in the Shure Montreux Voice Competition (Switzerland) in 2011.

Liz has worked alongside several jazz greats, including legendary jazz singer Mark Murphy.

She is currently based in Boston, Massachusetts, completing her Masters in Jazz Voice on a double scholarship at the prestigious New England Conservatory. Liz released her debut album, A Beautiful Friendship, in 2007, to widespread acclaim.


Katie’s musical life began at the tender age of 6 when she started learning piano at Mrs. Paxton’s piano studio in Wilston, Brisbane. Since then, Katie has received accolades in both the jazz and pop world; receiving the prestigious Generations in Jazz Vocal Scholarship awarded by James Morrison in 2007 and subsequently releasing an original album with piano player Dave Spicer in 2008, funded by the Brisbane Jazz Club.

After graduating from the Queensland Conservatorium in 2009, Katie had a brief sojourn in New York City, studing with renowned experimental vocalist, Theo Bleckmann. Now based in Sydney, Katie will release her second original EP in early 2013.


Australia’s most prestigious jazz competition, the National Jazz Awards have been a highlight of the Wangaratta Festival of Jazz and Blues each year since the festival began in 1990.

Designed to provide encouragement and exposure to young musicians (up to 35 years of age), the ten finalists each year are given an opportunity to win prize money, and perform with high-level accompanists at the festival.


Entries for the 2012 competition have now closed.

Featuring a different ‘instrument’ each year, this year the National Jazz Awards will focus on VOCALS. The last time young vocalists were featured was in 2005, when first prize was awarded to Elana Stone.

Increased prize money is on offer this year, with the winner receiving $10,000, the runner-up $5000, and the third placegetter $2500.

In addition, the winner will be invited to record for ABC Classic FM’s ‘Jazztrack With Mal Stanley’, and to perform in the 2013 Stonnington Jazz Festival.

Renowned jazz pianist Mike Nock will again serve as chairman of judges. He will be joined by leading Melbourne jazz singer Michelle Nicolle – who was the first vocalist to win the National Jazz Awards back in 1998 – and renowned vocalist-trumpeter-bandleader Vince Jones.

The judging panel will assess the recordings submitted on a blindfold basis. The ten highest-ranked entrants will be invited to participate in the finals at the Wangaratta Festival of Jazz and Blues on the weekend of 2 – 5 November, 2012. They will perform with a stellar band, featuring pianist Sam Keevers.

The finals, on Sunday 4 November, will be broadcast live to air nationally on ‘Jazztrack with Mal Stanley’, on ABC Classic FM from 5pm.

Entrants must be no older than 35, as at 1 November 2012. The closing date for entries was 1 June 2012.


We are proud to welcome a new era of generous support from those wishing to contribute to the development of Australian culture; in particular the development and recognition of young jazz and blues musicians. The Wangaratta Festival of Jazz and Blues is listed on the Australian Register of Cultural Organisations which means gifts donated to our Jazz and Blues Development Fund are tax deductible.

The 2009 – 2012 National Jazz Awards were supported by a donation from Anthony and Sharon Lee from Sydney who are “delighted to be associated with the prestigious National Jazz Awards and the Wangaratta Festival of Jazz.” Members of the Festival Board, Adrian Jackson and all those associated with the Festival thank Anthony and Sharon for their generosity and contribution to the development of Australian music.