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Festival for Young Performers



At the Somerset Festival for Young Performers we have many talented adjudicators who are involved; these adjudicators vary from year to year.

These are the people who are here to encourage all participants to further develop their potential in all areas of the Performing Arts. They all share a love of music and drama and are keen to share this with the children.

Mrs Melissa Black - Melissa is a recognised proficient Music Educator, specialising in Primary Music Education using the Kodaly methodology. She is a widely acknowledged as a professional clarinet and saxophone performer and tutor, inspiring teacher and enthusiastic conductor of school and community ensembles. Since studying clarinet at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music under Susan Newsome, Melissa has performed in many ensembles and musical societies including the Sydney Youth Orchestra, Gold Coast Philharmonic Orchestra and the Brisbane Symphony Orchestra. In 2018, Melissa is the Junior School Specialist Music Teacher and Choral Director at Somerset College, Director of the Queensland Show Choir (Poco Voci) and Secretary of the Kodaly Music Education Institute of Australia (Queensland chapter). Through positive learning experiences and strong foundations, Melissa facilitates learning for musicians of all ages by carefully guiding her students in their journey of music to develop a love and passion for music making.

Ms Joanne Byrnes - Jo is an accomplished musician, having played as a member of the Armed Forces Band for several years. Having completed her degree, Jo now teaches classroom music at Nerang State Primary, as well as teaching clarinet, saxophone, and oboe at Somerset College. Jo also teaches woodwind and guitar at Kids on Keys.

Mrs Denise Collins - Besides teaching at Somerset College and AB Paterson College, Denise is a national and international examiner, and adjudicator. She has performed as the soloist with the QSO and is currently the conductor of the Gold Coast Philharmonic Concert Band. In her capacity as a music specialist at these schools, Denise has been involved with concert bands, ensembles, and flute choirs, and always enjoys working with young musicians.

Ms Jenny George - Jenny enjoys drama at all levels. She has participated in drama herself at an amateur level and taught the subject in several schools. Jenny has an ATCL in Speech & Drama through Trinity College in London and ran her own drama school for a few years while living in Brisbane. Since working at Somerset, Jenny has directed the Junior School Musical and loves this aspect of seeing students enjoy the stage and grow in confidence.

Ms Melinda Green - Melinda was a new addition to Somerset College in 2009, after teaching in rural Queensland for several years where she directed numerous dramatic and musical performances for schools and local communities, in addition to facilitating theatre workshops for both students and drama educators. Melinda is very passionate about drama and is always excited to see the talent that is displayed at the Somerset Festival for Young Performers.

Mrs Catherine Goldspring - Catherine is a passionate teacher and advocate for the Performing Arts. Although currently involved in the co-curricular music scene at Somerset College, Catherine believes mastering one’s own voice first is of utmost importance. Catherine’s strength lies within her commitment to her characters in performance and her musical phrasing in prose and poetry. Catherine holds an Associate Diploma of Speech and Drama and has experience teaching speech and drama in primary schools in Brisbane

Mr Mario Keczan - After completing his studies at the Queensland Conservatorium of Music, Mario furthered his music studies at the Ferenc Liszt Music Academy. In 2001, he was one of the fifteen young musicians from around the world invited to the International Menuhin Music Academy in Switzerland, where he performed with the Menuhin Ensemble. Mario has also participated in master classes and workshops in Europe with a range of world-class musicians including Alberto Lysy, Zakhar Bron and the renowned Tibor Varga - music educator and violinist. Mario now shares his love of music with students from Somerset College.

Mrs Leisa Kirstein - Leisa Kirstein is a resident piano teacher at Somerset College and has been teaching for 25 years. Leisa also currently teaches piano/theory at Marymount College and has previously taught at Merrimac State School, Surfers State School, Kids on Keys and Saint Francis Xavier. Leisa’s early years teaching included both experience teaching a performing skills program through Early Childhood Centres with Stageworkx and founding Eenie Meenie Maestros where she directed Kindermusik classes on the gold Coast. Leisa completed practical performance exams with Trinity College of Music, AMEB and GUILD in both piano and electronic organ studies. Leisa enjoys working with students of all ages, accompanying and is a proud supporter of the Somerset Festival for Young Performers.

Ms Helen Little - Helen is currently working both nationally and overseas as a teacher, examiner and adjudicator, as well as teaching instrumental music at Somerset College. She has been involved not only as an adjudicator but also as convenor of the National Eisteddfod in Canberra, and the initial development of the Miles Franklin Music Festival and the Somerset Festival. She was a conductor for nine years at Musicfest, participated in a concert band tour to the International Band Festival in Taiwan, and sang at the Advent Festival in Vienna as part of a Brisbane based choir. Even though this is her 26th festival, she is still always thrilled to see the enthusiasm and development of the young performers and is delighted to welcome back so many past participants as either teachers, adjudicators or parents of current participants.

Ms Ashleigh Miles - Ashleigh is a graduate of Griffith University with a Bachelor of Education, majoring in Music and English. She is also a qualified Simply Music Educator and Kindermusik Educator. Ashleigh has played Piano for over 25 years and has tutored Piano, Keyboard and Theory since 2004. Ashleigh has tutored at many schools including Marymount College and Somerset College. Currently Ashleigh teaches at Saint Stephens College and AB Paterson College, whilst also teaching at her home studio. Ashleigh is also a qualified accompanist, playing for many student exams, school choirs, and Musicals at Marymount College, Aquinas College and Spotlight Theatre.

Mrs Mercedes Porter - Mercedes started playing piano at four and a half years old and proceeded to add violin and viola to her repertoire. She has completed a Bachelor of Arts in Music and Criminology, as well as a Bachelor of Education, followed by a Master of Education. Mercedes has taught in classroom music in both junior and secondary schools and especially enjoys seeing children develop their musicianship from year to year. Mercedes always looks forward to adjudicating at the Festival as she was one of the participants at the very first Somerset Festival for Young Performers and has fond memories of her experience.

Ms Brie Ramirez - Brie Ramirez is a violinist, pianist and harpist born and bred on the Gold Coast. Growing up, she was actively involved in the many music opportunities offered on the Gold Coast and decided to make a career of music. She went on to study a bachelor of Music in Violin Performance and a Bachelor of Education at the QLD Conservatorium of Music in Brisbane. She has taught classroom music and instrumental strings lessons both here and in London, and finds her passion in teaching students the art of string playing in both solo and orchestral settings. Currently she is the Instrumental Strings teacher at Benowa State Primary and High Schools.

Mrs Anne Rowe - Anne has been involved with the teaching of both classroom music and instrumental music at Somerset and several schools in Western Australia. She has conducted concert band for many years, and is still involved performing in orchestras and concert bands on the Gold Coast. Anne has also been involved in the production of many musicals either as accompanist or on bassoon in the orchestra. Anne is always enthusiastic about encouraging young performers.

Ms Kylie Skelton - Kylie has performed on stage, television, radio and film. She was invited to attend the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama. She is actively involved in performing, writing and directing for stage. Currently Kylie is very busy with running a youth theatre, working to positively encourage our young stage performers.

Mrs Josie Strand - Josephine has had a passion for the Entertainment Industry since an early age. She moved from her home town of Wagga Wagga to attend the McDonald College School of Performing Arts where she graduated with "Excellence in Acting". Josephine then studied her BA: Acting for the Screen and Stage at Charles Sturt University. She has been involved with many productions over the years, both as an Actress and as a Director and is now completing her Diploma of Education, with a major in Drama at Griffith University. Josephine is very excited to see the talent on display during the Somerset Festival.

Chantal Ward - Being a Speech and Drama teacher and ATCL graduate, Chantal knows how rewarding, yet daunting, it can be to perform in front of an audience. The Somerset Festival for Young Performers is a great opportunity for young up and coming stars of music and drama to hone their skills and enjoy the limelight. She is very much looking to adjudicating this year’s entrants, having been an entrant herself a long time ago.

Mrs Kellie Wilson - Having been born into a musical family on the Gold Coast, Kellie holds her AMusA in singing and violin and has been teaching instrumental music for almost fifteen years on the Gold Coast, Brisbane and Perth. Kellie has held arts management positions with the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama (Cardiff), West Australian Symphony Orchestra and Queensland Conservatorium. She's now enjoying mothering two children, as well as teaching private singing students and choirs at All Saints Anglican School.