Advance Awards 2021: Introducing the Arts Award Finalists

Pallavi Sharda

Pallavi Sharda is a Bollywood, Hollywood actor and dancer, currently starring in the 2021 American comedy film, Tom and Jerry. Born in Perth, her parents immigrated to Australia from India and raised Ms Sharda in Melbourne where she earned an Bachelor of Laws (Hons)/Arts in Media and Communications, as well as a Diploma in Modern Languages (French) at the University of Melbourne. Ms Sharda moved to Mumbai to fulfill her childhood dream of working in Bollywood films where – against all odds – she went on to successfully star in several Bollywood films including Begum Jaan (2017), Besharam (2013), and Indian period drama Hawaizaada (2015). During that time she crossed back over into Australian films, working in films like Save Your Legs (2013), and the Oscar nominated Lion (2016).

Ms Sharda has critically acclaimed performances across genres and territories and is known by her fans in India for her unique rhythmic dancing. In recent years, Ms Sharda returned to Australia to star in the ABC television dramas, Pulse and Les Norton and also played the female lead in Gurinder Chadha’s UK period drama Beecham House. Since the onset of the pandemic, her career has soared. She starred in the Covid-19-inspired and filmed ABC TV series, Retrograde and in a leading role in  The One, a 2021 Netflix series. She plays a key character in the 2021 American comedy film, Tom & Jerry, produced by Warner Animation Group, has just wrapped Thunder Road film Black Site and will star in the 2022 Netflix film, Wedding Season. With her global success since 2020, Ms Sharda is increasingly focused on creating her own work. She speaks openly about how difficult she found finding work as an Indian-Australian woman. Having risen from community arts in Australia, she is inspired to provide mentorship for young people of diverse backgrounds, and help them build their confidence to deliver authentic multicultural characters. Ms Sharda speaks widely on a number of social issues, an amongst many of her advocacy roles she has been on the board of advisors for a sustainable development enterprise farming initiative in Odisha, India; ambassador for Oz Fest Australia; and promotes the cause of sustainable fashion through her partnerships with a number of NGOs. 

“As an Australian, the knowledge that I am setting an example that being a ‘migrant kid’ is a boon not a hindrance is a huge motivator. I want to impart the sense that access to a multi-hyphenated identity is a super power and allows for an added layer of human empathy and understanding which can be channeled through any vocation. Growing up in Australia is a privilege, but often ceilings are placed upon that privilege which create limiting beliefs, particularly for those who sit outside the heteronormative, white hegemonic cultural order. My work allows me to constantly push those boundaries. My work is not about me, but about the generation which comes after me. 

Being of Indian heritage also gives me unique access into the world of the subcontinent and as a performer allows me to represent the many particularities that exist under the umbrella of being a South Asian Australian woman – that is an honour. I am fortunate to able to combine my values with my work and I hope to only exert positive, empowering influence through each performance and through my advocacy work on the myriad issues about which I am passionate, within and without the performing arts industry. My core interest is in obliterating discrimination and societal inequities. It’s a large vision – but without idealism, I would be nowhere.”

Dr Carolyn Watson

Dr Carolyn Watson is Music Director of the La Porte County Symphony Orchestra in Indiana and one of only two women heading up doctoral level programs in orchestral conducting in the United States. A committed music educator, Dr Watson also serves as Director of Orchestras at The University of Illinois and is a guest conductor at the Interlochen Centre for the Arts. She is well known in the industry for inspiring young musicians to achieve orchestral greatness. Dr Watson started out as a violinist and worked with the Australian Youth Orchestra. She played for a year professionally in the pit for Phantom of the Opera and Miss Saigon in Sydney before moving overseas. She believes the shift from being a good musician to a great conductor is a perfectly natural one, however, notes that a good conductor cannot so easily be made into a great musician. Dr Watson muses that the depth of musical knowledge and feeling coupled with an ability to connect the nuances of the score with the players is paramount. Dr Watson is also deeply committed to continuing to raise awareness regarding the gender disparity in this discipline, with only 5-10% of professional orchestral conductors being female, and she strives to be a role model and mentor for aspiring female conductors. Dr Watson has been based in the United States since 2013 during which time she has led performances with Amarillo Opera, Austin Symphony, Cape Symphony, Catskill Symphony, Dallas Opera, Des Moines Metro Opera, Detroit Symphony Civic Orchestra, Kansas City Ballet, Kansas City Chamber Orchestra, Lyric Opera of Kansas City, St. Joseph Symphony, Traverse Symphony Orchestra and the World Youth Symphony Orchestra. Recruited internationally as Music Director of the Interlochen Arts Academy Orchestra, she won the 2015 American Prize for Orchestral Performance with this ensemble.

A major prizewinner at the 2012 Emmerich Kálmán International Operetta Conducting Competition in Budapest, notable European engagements include Infektion! at the Berlin State Opera, conducting musicians of the Berlin Philharmonic in Interaktion, a residency at the Israeli National Opera, and assisting Sir Charles Mackerras on his final two productions at The Royal Opera, Covent Garden and Glyndebourne. Additional international conducting credits include the Brandenburger Symphoniker, BBC Concert Orchestra, Budapest Operetta Theatre, Bulgarian State Opera Bourgas, Duna Szimfonikus Budapest, North Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, Kammerphilharmonie Graz, Kodály Philharmonia Debrecen, Mihail Jora Philharmonic Romania, Savaria Symphony Orchestra, Scottish Chamber Orchestra, and in Russia, the St. Petersburg Chamber Philharmonic. In Australia, she has worked with the Darwin Symphony, Monash Academy Orchestra, Sydney Philharmonia Choirs, Melbourne Youth Orchestra, Sydney Symphony, Tasmania Discovery Orchestra and Willoughby Symphony.

She is the recipient of a number of prestigious national and international awards for young conductors including the Brian Stacey Award for emerging Australian conductors, Sir Charles Mackerras Conducting Prize awarded via the Australian Music Foundation in London, Opera Foundation Australia’s Bayreuth Opera Award and Berlin New Music Opera Award and the Nelly Apt Conducting Scholarship. She is the beneficiary of support from the American Australian Association’s Dame Joan Sutherland Fund and a Sheila Pryor Study Grant from the Australian Opera Auditions Committee. She is also a Churchill Fellow, and was the recipient of a Creative Fellowship from the State Library of Victoria. Carolyn holds a PhD in Performance (Conducting) from the University of Sydney where she studied under Imre Palló. The subject of her doctoral thesis was Gesture as Communication: The Art of Carlos Kleiber.

The thing I love most about conducting is that it continues to challenge me, and ensures I am continually learning. There is no limit to the amount of intellectual knowledge, insight and understanding I am able to cultivate, and similarly, my musical skills are also constantly developing, improving and evolving. I am constantly finding news works, unknown composers, unique recording and performance projects, all of which pique my interest. I am also deeply committed to continuing to raise awareness regarding the gender disparity in this discipline – only 5-10% of professional orchestral conductors are female, and I strive to be a role model and mentor for aspiring female conductors.

Carolyn Watson

Darren McIntyre

Darren McIntyre is a professional dancer, choreographer and dance teacher and is now the newly appointed Artistic Director of Ballet Pensacola in Florida. Originally from Port Macquarie, NSW, Mr McIntyre is a graduate of The Australian Ballet School. He recently played the acclaimed lead role of ‘Banjo’ as an original cast member in the world premiere and the first Australian Tour of the new hit production “BANJO” presented by Got Ya Back Productions. Mr McIntyre is an advocate for opportunities for young dancers. He is the founder and artistic director of The Marianne McIntyre Memorial International Ballet Scholarship, a ballet festival held annually in memory of his Mother, fostering young dancers education through grants to study within the US, Europe, Australia and New Zealand. Known throughout the industry as an inspiring mentor, a positive role model and a proud ambassador to the performing arts industry, Mr McIntrye has always made time to encourage and enable young dancers from Australia to receive scholarships and opportunities to travel to America and abroad. He has taught over 3,000 young dancers world-wide, and his summer dance program “Performing in America” attracts over 400 international dancers, annually. Mr McIntyre is a regular guest adjudicator at eisteddfods such as The City of Sydney, Taree and Kempsey, as well as at many International Dance Competitions, Auditions and Scholarships.

Mr McIntyre has toured extensively throughout the United States, Australia, Asia, Canada, Europe and South America, performing a wide range of both classical and contemporary works as a freelance artist and with such companies as Minnesota Ballet, Louisville Ballet, City Ballet of San Diego, Milwaukee Ballet, Ajkun Ballet Theatre – New York City, The Landestheater Detmold in Germany, The National Ballet of Ireland and The Australian Ballet. Mr McIntyre has choreographed more than 30 original works, including his own original ballet, “What May Come”, at The Australian Ballet Centre, and in collaboration with The Anti-Cancer Council of Australia raised valuable funds towards cancer research and awareness. He was also the recipient of The Dame Peggy van Praagh Award for Choreography. Mr McIntyre believes that the synergy of art and life makes our world a better place. He advocates that the Arts should be accessible & affordable to everyone, all year-round, as a responsibility to enliven a vital community.

“I love how dance can open a dialogue for people of all walks of life, creating a platform of entertainment, statements and education.”

Simone Young AM

Australian-born Simone Young is internationally recognised as one of the leading conductors of her generation, and is regularly invited by the world’s leading orchestras and major opera houses across Europe, the United States and Asia. Her appointment as Chief Conductor Designate with the Sydney Symphony was announced in 2020 and she will take up the post of the orchestra’s Chief Conductor in 2022. From 2005-2015 she was General Manager and Music Director of the Hamburg State Opera and Music Director of the Philharmonic State Orchestra Hamburg, where she conducted repertoire ranging from Mozart, Verdi, Puccini, Wagner and Strauss, to Hindemith, Britten and Henze. She is an acknowledged interpreter of the operas of Wagner and Strauss, having conducted several complete cycles of Der Ring des Nibelungen at the Vienna Staatsoper, the Staatsoper in Berlin and again, to great acclaim, in Hamburg as part of the ‘Wagner-Wahn’ Festival, during which she conducted the 10 major Wagner operas. Her Hamburg recordings include the Ring cycle, Mathis der Maler (Hindemith), and symphonies of Bruckner, Brahms and Mahler. 

Simone Young is the recipient of many awards and honours including the 2019 European Cultural Prize Vienna, the 2014 International Opera Awards for best anniversary production for the Verdi trilogy – La battaglia di LegnanoI due FoscariI Lombardi with the Hamburg Staatsoper. Her 2012 tour to Brisbane with the Hamburg Opera and Ballet, (Das Rheingold in concert, and Mahler Symphony No. 2 “Resurrection”), won her the 2013 Helpmann Award for the Best Individual Classical Music Performance. She also won the 2011 Sir Bernard Heinze Award, and the 2005 prestigious Goethe Institute Medal. She was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia in 2004, and the Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres from France. Ms Young has also received Honorary Doctorates from the University of Western Australia, Griffith University, Monash University and the University of New South Wales.

“I am driven to try to live up to the mastery of the great composers and to communicate, as best I can, their powerful messages of compassion and humanity.”