Half of the finalists in a prestigious national jazz competition are from the Queensland Conservatorium.

Adelina Martinez, Imogen Laag and Merinda Dias-Jayasinha are among six singers in Australia shortlisted for the Generations in Jazz vocal scholarship.

The $10,000 scholarship is part of the annual Generations in Jazz Festival, founded by Australian jazz legend James Morrison in 1982. This year’s competition will be adjudicated by Grammy-award winning singer Kurt Elling.

Previous winners of the vocal scholarship have included a number of Queensland Conservatorium alumni, including Megan Washington, Elly Hoyt and Kayleigh Pincott.

A world of opportunities

Masters of Music student Adelina Martinez said making it into the finals for the second year in a row was a “spectacular surprise”.

“It’s so exciting. I think it’s a great success for the Con and the whole Brisbane jazz scene,” she said.

“None of us are focused on the competition. Jazz is so collaborative and it will be a great chance to immerse myself in the music and meet other amazing musicians.

“Last year was overwhelming, but I think it will be easier the second time around – hopefully I’ll be more cool, calm and collected and be able to enjoy myself and soak it all in.”

Adelina had to fight to study music — initially facing resistance from her parents.

“When I was 15, I secretly got a part-time job to pay for singing lessons — this went on for almost 18 months before my Mum found out!

“I didn’t come from a musical background, my parents were immigrants from Uruguay where there is real economic hardship and people don’t place a huge value on the arts.

“My Mum has come around now, and she realises now that there are heaps of opportunities if you rise to the challenge.

“There is such a world of opportunity out there — I’m a student, a music teacher, a performer, a conductor.”

An experience like no other

This marks the third time Bachelor of Music alumnus Merinda Dias-Jayasinha has been shortlisted for the vocal scholarship, and she is thrilled to be heading back down to Mt Gambier for the Generations in Jazz Festival, which attracts the world’s top jazz performers and thousands of aspiring jazz musicians.

“It’s a chance to see a super bunch of musicians and make some great music,” she said.

“It’s an experience like no other.”

Making industry connections

Bachelor of Music third year student Imogen Laag said she was excited to make her debut at Generations in Jazz festival.

“I’m probably still in a state of disbelief,” she said.

“I was in the middle of class at uni when I got the call telling me that I’d made it into the finals, and I started freaking out!”

Imogen said the festival was a launchpad to a career in the music industry.

“It is such an amazing opportunity to make connections with my peers and people in the industry,” she said.

“There is such a high level of musicianship, so just to be surrounded by people at the top of their game is fantastic.”

A remarkable teacher

All three singers are taught by the Con’s legendary vocal coach and senior lecturer Dr Irene Bartlett, who has mentored everyone from Dami Im to Katie Noonan.

“We’ve had great success at the Generations in Jazz Festival over the years,” she said.

“To get one singer in the finals of a national competition like this is amazing, but to have three is a real coup and it’s a tribute to the talent we have here at the Con.

“You don’t need to be part of the jazz scene in Sydney or Melbourne to make it in the industry — our achievements speak for themselves.”

A dream destination

Queensland Conservatorium Director Professor Scott Harrison said the Queensland Conservatorium jazz program was recognised as one of the best in Australia, with graduates going on to enjoy success on the national and international stage.

“We have produced many remarkable vocalists who had transformed the Australian music scene — from Dami Im to Katie Noonan and Megan Washington,” he said.

“Singers like Imogen, Adelina and Merinda are part of the next generation of talented students making their mark in the industry.

“We remain the dream destination for aspiring young musicians from around the world — this has been confirmed by our position among the top 50 performing arts programs in the world, and our ranking as the country’s leading creative arts school.”

The Generations in Jazz Festival takes place from 3 — 5 May in Mt Gambier, South Australia.