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Scholarship prize winners (clockwise from top left): Caleb Hechter Saturno, Elana Sydenham, Mia Cross, Minjy Lee, Jerome Drobot and Emily Robertson.

Junior and senior students shine at Pearl Beach Showcase and Scholarship 2024

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Central Coast Conservatorium senior students flautist Elana Sydenham, guitarist Jerome Drobot, singer Mia Cross and violinist Minjy Lee have won top prizes at the Pearl Beach Senior Scholarship Finals. 

Eighteen junior and senior students were selected to take part in the annual Pearl Beach Junior Showcase and Senior Scholarship Concerts at Pearl Beach Memorial Hall on Saturday 25 May, organised by Pearl Beach Progress Association and the Irvine Family.

Held in partnership with the Central Coast Conservatorium of Music, the annual concerts have been running since 2005, offering performance opportunities to students who have excelled in their chosen fields. The day included a Junior Showcase concert in the morning, with outstanding solo performances from 10 students, including the joint winners of the 2024 Irvine Family Piano Scholarship – Caleb Hechter Saturno and Emily Robertson.

PHOTO GALLERY: Pearl Beach Showcase and Scholarship 2024 in pictures

In the afternoon, 8 seniors vied for the top prizes in the Pearl Beach Scholarship Finals. Central Coast Grammar Year 11 student, Elana Sydenham was awarded the top prize, the $1000 Pearl Beach Senior Scholarship, sponsored by Pearly’s Cafe.

In her summing up, adjudicator Erin Sweetman thanked the members of the Pearl Beach community and the Irvine Family for their generosity in supporting this annual event. “The prize money that’s awarded today is significant, and is a recognition of the arts that is vibrant on the Central Coast,” said Erin, congratulating all of the senior performers. “They were all highly enjoyable for me to listen to and we have all had a lovely afternoon of music-making.”

In handing out the  Senior Awards, Erin praised the winner Elana – who was 2023 Pearl Beach Scholarship People’s Choice – for her stylistic interpretation of the two chosen works, Theodore Verhey’s Flute Concerto No 1 in D Minor and two movements of Ross Edward’s Nura – and for her “absolute command of the stage” and engagement with the music.

“The stylistic interpretation was quite amazing, and I literally just wanted to put my pen down and enjoy it,” said Erin. “Elana performed the first piece by memory, and you could see the enjoyment and she was performing to the whole hall and demonstrated beautiful tone and technique.”

Year 12 Kincumber High School student, Jerome Drobot, won the $500 Pearl Beach Community Award. “Right from the get-go he just had this beautiful ease of delivery,” said Erin of Jerome’s electric guitar rendition of Armando’s Rhumba by Chick Corea (accompanied by his guitar teacher Guy Strazz) and Always With You, Always with Me by Joe Satriani. 

Vocalist Mia Cross was awarded the Peter Duke Rising Star Award of $500 for her performance of two songs – No-one Else from the musical Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet and Astonishing from Little Women. “Mia was in character the minute that she was on stage and I really enjoyed her performance and the different stories that her character portrayed,” said Erin, who also commented on Mia’s “beautiful tone with the vibrato that blossoms towards the end of the long notes. It was a beautiful performance.”

The Frances Grove People’s Choice Award of $500 – as voted by the audience – went to Year 12 Gosford High School student Minjy Lee. Minjy performed Winter from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons and Summertime and a Woman is  Sometime Thing from Porgy and Bess.

In wrapping up the Senior Scholarship Concert, Erin congratulated all eight finalists, who also included flautist Emma Deed, bassoonist Xavier Cardozo, trombonist Anya Sandeman and violinist Emma Berecry-Brown.

In the morning 10 junior students impressed the audience with their solo performances on a range of instruments from guitar and trumpet to violin and saxophone. The performers were Tatiana Wang (violin), Emily Lalor (guitar), Vishoka Selvarajan (trumpet), Yaalini Selvarajan (flute), Monika Sydneham (saxophone), Jensen Hornsby (electric guitar), Mathias Way (piano) and Jo Jo Sandeman (violin). 2024 Irvine Family Piano Scholarship joint winners Emily Robertson and Caleb Hechter Saturno also performed solo pieces. 

The students were accompanied by pianist and associate artists Liisa Munnukka and Gareth Szakos. Gareth and last year’s Pearl Beach Scholarship Winner, violinist Kaito Deed, also entertained the audience with special guest performances.