Scholars dig in to study of country

THE future stars of country music are singing and playing their way to a better knowledge of the country music industry for the next fortnight.

The CMAA Academy of Country Music has welcomed young artists including scholarship winners Kelsey Strasek-Barker, Joanne McDonnell and Nathaniel O’Brien.

Tamworth singer songwriter Ms Strasek-Barker is attending academy on one of the Troy Cassar-Daley scholarships.

Originally from Lightning Ridge, she’s lived in Tamworth since 2003, apart from a year in St George last year, and said Buddy and Teangi Knox were her mentors.

“At academy I want to gain more knowledge, make new friends and learn from really great people in the industry,” she said.

Her mum told her to apply for the scholarship.

“I feel very blessed and grateful to have gotten it and to be given this opportunity,” she said.

“I have performed at the Aboriginal Cultural Showcase and will most likely be singing there this year. 

“I also have a few other spots at the festival and I’m looking forward to what this year will bring. I feel I have improved a lot so I can’t wait to get out there and play my own music.”

South Australian Nathaniel O’Brien won the Capital Country Music Association overall junior scholarship, but having turned 18, they upgraded him to the senior academy.

“I want to gain industry knowledge from professionals and grow my skills as an artist.”

West Australian high school dance teacher Joanne McDonnell originally hails from Ireland and will attend her first Tamworth Country Music Festival after the academy.

“At academy I want to develop my craft,” she said.

“I won the Woodley Williams Scholarship and it’s a complete honour to be given this opportunity.” 

Ms McDonnell said she wanted to create further musical connections between her home state and the rest of the world.

She said she couldn’t wait for the festival to begin.

“I want to immerse myself in the whole country culture,” she said.

The senior students will graduate on Friday, January 17 – the opening night of the festival – in Blazes at Wests.

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