Wednesday, 23 Jun 2021


(Top L-R) Emi Pogoni, Jolyon Mulholland, Lisa Crawley (Bottom L-R) Maree Sheehan, Phodiso Dintwe, Valentine Nixon

Today, we are delighted to announce the 2021 recipients of the APRA Professional Development Awards: Emi Pogoni, Jolyon Mulholland, Lisa Crawley, Maree Sheehan, Phodiso Dintwe, and Valentine Nixon. 

Every two years the Professional Development Awards are presented to New Zealand songwriters and composers who have demonstrated a passionate work ethic in their field alongside a commitment to their craft through discipline and motivation. A prize of $5000 is intended to help emerging artists engage in songwriting workshops, music education courses, composer seminars, participate in co-writing opportunities, and attend other relevant activities domestically or internationally. 

Plans for this year's winners include local and international co-writing opportunities; songwriter camps; mentorships in advertising, vocal training, and orchestration; education and development in sound production; and guided research in technologies and artificial intelligence. 

To determine the recipients, all applications are assessed by an anonymous industry panel. This year's recipients represent a diverse range of New Zealand songwriters and composers, reflecting the ever-growing output of high calibre music in Aotearoa.

"The overall standard of all the applications was really high and as a result, the decision-making process wasn't easy. It was particularly great to see how wide-ranging they were in terms of genre, and to see a strong community focus across a lot of people's plans." (Anonymous judge)

Due to post-COVID circumstances, we decided to make adjustments to the way the PDA awards are distributed. Instead of $30k being split between three disciplines: Pop/Contemporary, Screen/Film, and Classical - six winners were chosen by reflecting the diverse music industry with each recipient receiving $5k.

Emi Pogoni

Based in Te Whanganui-a-Tara/Wellington, Emi Pogoni is a talented artist with experience in composition, sound design, and music direction.  

After obtaining a Bachelor of Music with Honours in Sonic Arts and Music Studies from Te Kōki New Zealand School of Music, they founded Works for Loudspeakers – a listening party showcasing sound-based composers. 

Emi has since composed for shows in the performing arts sector, including ‘Elliptical Fictions’ (2018-2019) for Footnote Dance New Zealand, which toured Aotearoa twice and in China, and theatre productions ‘Burn Her’ and ‘Orientation’, which won a Production Excellence Award and the Hackman Cup for Most Original Production respectively at the Auckland Theatre Awards. 

Their work also spans across various platforms, including the TVNZ OnDemand web series ‘Life is Easy’, The Spinoff’s mini-documentary series ‘The Single Object’, and editing and mixing of season 2 of RNZ’s podcast ‘Conversations With My Immigrant Parents’’.

The APRA Professional Development award will allow Emi to build upon their compositional practice and delve into concepts of artificial intelligence, technology, and posthumanism with a mentor – exploring how these can combine with sonic arts.

“I would like to explore concepts around future and/or imagined technologies within a human context, how to relay that through sound and composition, and/or be able to push current settings for presentation of works.” 

The award will also allow for Emi to pursue STEAM courses via Kadenze, a multi-university-affiliated remote learning platform. They will continue to work across the arts industry, with upcoming and arising projects allowing scope for new techniques and ideas to be tested. 

“It is exciting to be able to dedicate the time to consider the direction of my creative practice and, specifically, embark on professional development centered around artificial intelligence.”

Jolyon Mulholland

Now an accomplished multi-instrumentalist, composer, producer, sound engineer, session musician, and music director, Jol Mulholland began songwriting at an early age. After finding a guitar on the side of the road and creating work for an audience of Mum & Dad, Jol became obsessed with classical guitar and went on to play in bands. Gasoline Cowboy, The Mots, and Pablo Vasquez with Elroy Finn are just a few of Jol’s projects, not to mention his solo work – Eugene Told Me You Were Dead, Mulholland, and Stop & Start Again. 

He has since worked with various prolific local and international artists, including the Auckland Philharmonia and Christchurch Symphony Orchestras, Anna Coddington, Tami Neilson, Anika Moa, Neil Finn, Hollie Smith, Boh Runga, and Lydia Cole. During New Zealand’s level 4 lockdown, Jol filled he and his wife’s one-bedroom apartment with recording gear, where he wrote and recorded a yet-to-be-released project. Jol considers this one of his “more memorable songwriting achievements.” 

Jol continues to work with various kiwi musicians on an array of projects including THEIA, Gin Wigmore, and producing and recording the new Daffodils album. He would love to work with an orchestra to learn arrangement and how to score for an ensemble, as well as continue learning Te Reo and integrate the language in future compositions. 

The APRA Professional Development Award will enable Jol to live out his dream and travel to Wellington, where he will be mentored in Orchestration by NZ composer Rhian Sheehan.  

Jol will continue Te Reo lessons at Native Tongue with NZ musician Theia, as well as travel to the North Island’s East Coast where he will reconnect with his iwi Ngati Porou, and visit his marae – Hiruharama. He will be able to immerse himself in Te Reo, research, and collaborate through stories and music which will influence his future compositions and work. Jol says of receiving the award "It means a lot to be given support to work on a project that will allow me to further connect with my whakapapa, as well as learn about all the intricacies involved with scoring for an orchestra."

Lisa Crawley

Now based in Los Angeles, New Zealand songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Lisa Crawley has released two full-length albums, four EP’s, and 22 singles in the last 12 years. She has performed her original and authentic pop songs on stages across the UK, Asia, USA, and Europe. The Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity selected Lisa twice for the songwriter's residency, she has been nominated four times for a Silver Scroll and has been a songwriting mentor with the New Zealand Music Commission for eight years. 

Throughout her extensive career, Lisa has worked with the likes of Tim Finn and Greg Johnson, as well as opened for John Mayer and Jools Holland. Recently signed to Think Music licensing company in Los Angeles, Lisa has had various sync placements in film and television. Since her move, she has been hard at work throughout the pandemic on new material and innovative ways to continue her craft remotely during lockdowns.

Having attended and performed at various music conferences such as SXSW, Hawaii Songwriting Festival, and Canadian Music Week, Lisa is part of a network of producers, writers, and engineers locally and internationally. With a goal of being able to write, produce and mix her own music, Lisa intends to work with a selection of mentors to build her skills in production and engineering, alongside writing for sync and composing for film and television. 

The APRA Professional Development Award will enable Lisa to work with producers and engineers "who I have dreamed of working with for a long time." This includes attending a songwriter camp with Richard Harris and NZ-born Pam Sheyne. The award will also enable Lisa to travel to work in-person with producer and engineers Peter Murray and David Kahne, both of whom have worked with artists Lisa loves and will develop skills to continue writing for herself. A mentorship by Pour Le Sport will enable Lisa to learn about writing for advertisements, where she will travel to spend time in a studio that has worked on campaigns for Apple, Adidas, and Vogue. 

Maree Sheehan

Maree Sheehan’s career began in the 1990s, seeing her nominated for Most Promising Vocalist at the 1993 NZ Music Awards and Best Maori Song in 1996. Having mentored prominent NZ band Nesian Mystik, Maree was also awarded the ‘Whangai’ award for contribution to rangatahi (youth) in music. Maree’s songs and compositions have featured on screen in Once Were Warriors, the award-winning NZ Doc Edge short film Pluck, and more recently the Home, Land and Sea television series. 

In 2020, the Hokioi/Wōhali project premiered at the New Zealand International Arts Festival which featured Maree’s collaboration on the music composition and sound design for Ōkareka dance company and Exhale dance tribe. 

Alongside her extensive career works, Maree has completed her Ph.D. at Auckland University of Technology. Her thesis, ‘The sound of identity: Interpreting the multidimensionality of wahine Māori’ resulted in her first exhibition ‘Ōtairongo’ currently within the Toi Tu Toi Ora exhibition at Auckland Art Gallery. 

The APRA Professional Development award will allow Maree to further her understanding in writing and production for screen, looking at new technologies and how these can be utilised in sound production. The award will enable Maree to work alongside Dave Whitehead – a BAFTA-nominated sound designer and composer to expand her skills in composing for screen. Maree will also work with Dick Reade and Chris Faiumu. “I am really happy to receive the $5k as I have music mentors I’ve always wanted to learn from and to be able to kōrero with film and television writers and directors”.

Maree also intends to continue mentoring young composers, with emphasis on Matauranga Māori and the promotion of Te Reo Māori whilst continuing her own compositions and writing for screen. 

Phodiso Dintwe

Multi-disciplinary and multilingual hip-hop artist Phodiso was born in Gaborone, Botswana where he learnt Tswana percussion styles through community song and dance ceremonies. Since making Aotearoa home, Phodiso has featured as a vocalist in the band New Telepathics and a percussionist for Pan Africana and Black Sunday. 2020 saw the release of Phodiso’s debut EP, titled Act I. The EP honours his Southern Afrikan Hip-Hop and Afro Jazz influences, whilst incorporating is own experimental artistry and thought-provoking lyricism. His single ‘Running Lines’ hit number one on bFM following the EP release, with singles ‘So Rite’ and ‘Respek’ also receiving chart placements on various bNet radio stations. 

Phodiso also won at the inaugural Bubble Bop songwriting competition – an initiative launched during the Covid-19 lockdown by Massey Students, challenging songwriters to ‘make a bop in their bubble’ in 24 hours. The competition was judged by industry experts, including pop artist BENEE and saw Phodiso take out the pop category. 

He has also featured on a track with JessB and was a finalist for the Red Bull Next NZ – a competition challenging lyricists to write and record a rap. 

Following the success of his first EP, Phodiso has recently released his sophomore EP titled Act II and is working towards his debut album for release in 2022. With an emphasis on nurturing his songwriting skills, the APRA Professional Development Award will allow Phodiso to undertake writing sessions and travel opportunities for his upcoming album. 

Phodiso will continue to work with Abe Kunin and Hugh Ozumba for the upcoming debut album and intends to undertake a writing session with a local producer – Rory Noble is at the top of his list. 

“I’m looking forward to using this award to take my songwriting to the next level. Big thank you to APRA!

Valentine Nixon

Valentine is one half of sister music duo Purple Pilgrims. She has been producing and touring both locally and internationally since 2012, performing across the globe and at many festivals in Australia, Hong Kong, Los Angeles and New York. More recently Valentine has completed a residency at Union Pool in Brooklyn and performed locally alongside Aldous Harding and Weyes Blood at Auckland Arts Festival and New Zealand Festival of the Arts. 

Purple Pilgrims have released many recorded works including their debut album Eternal Delight in 2016 which received high praise from BBC Radio and The Guardian. Their second album and debut with Flying Nun Perfumed Earth was released in 2019 and reached number 16 in the Top 20 NZ Albums of the NZ Official Music Charts. The duo have been featured and reviewed widely both locally and internationally in the likes of Viva, FashionQuarterly, Sydney Morning Herald, The Guardian and Pitchfok.  

In 2020, Valentine and sister Clementine worked remotely via Zoom with notable US producer Randall Dunn to complete production of Purple Pilgrim’s third album, due for release later this year. 

The APRA Professional Development award will allow Valentine to continue her songwriting momentum off the back of Purple Pilgrim’s album release. She will continue to work and co-write with Randall Dunn – co-founder of Circular Ruin Studio in New York, who will collaborate and guide the writing process. It will also enable Valentine to travel and work in person with former Pearl Jam drummer Matt Chamberlain after collaborating via Zoom to play drums on Purple Pilgrim’s new album.  

Furthermore, the award will equip Valentine to take up openings internationally – with management based in New York and co-writing opportunities becoming available, Valentine will be able to further hone her skills as a songwriter and continue to join forces with exiting collaborators.Receiving this award means a great deal. I’m grateful for the confidence placed in me and recognition of my songwriting” says Valentine upon receiving the award.


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