Published On: 19 December 2023Categories: Latest

Australian Guild of Screen Composers
Press release
19 December 2023
Winners of the Johnny Dennis Music Awards Announced

The Australian Guild of Screen Composers today announced the winners of the Johnny Dennis Music Awards, held every two years. The awards aim to provide the winning composers with the financial and creative freedom to receive appropriate recognition for their work. There are four cash awards of $5,000 each.

The winners of the 2023 Johnny Dennis Music Awards are:

Ailsa Mitchell, Sid Acharya, Jessica Wells and Thomas Balshaw

“We had over thirty high quality submission for the awards this year and as always the judges had a hard time choosing the four who most reflect the legacy of Johnny Dennis,” said Kingston Anderson Executive Director of the AGSC. “I would like to thank all our judges who spent considerable time assessing all the applicants.”

“A huge heartfelt thank you to the JD awards and team, I’m feeling so grateful and excited for the opportunity to make this project a reality!” Ailsa Mitchell.

“Thankyou for this amazing award. I am really grateful to be supported by this incredible community and can’t wait to use this award to create and inspire.” Sid Acharya.

“Oh wow, this is the best news ever. I can now go ahead with my project thanks to this award.” Jessica Wells.

It is an honour to receive this award alongside these incredible composers! I look forward to using this award to continue my studies.”  Thomas Balshaw.


The Johnny Dennis Music Awards were established in perpetuity through the will of Dennis John Mole, who bequeathed his entire estate to a suitable trust for the purposes of achieving appropriate recognition for composers of light music. As executor of his will, the late Trustee Mr Malcolm Harrison founded the trust in 1989 and Perpetual Trustee Company Limited are sole trustee of the awards. The AGSC have been administering the awards, on behalf of Perpetual as Trustee, for a number of years.

About Johnny Dennis

English-born and christened Dennis John Mole, Johnny Dennis migrated to Australia in the late 1940s and got his first musical break on the late Jim “Woody” Wood’s talent search program on Melbourne 3AW playing and singing ‘Chattanooga Shoe Shine Boy’. Soon after he became band pianist for three years at the Ritz Hotel, St. Kilda, before moving to the Gold Coast where, this time doubling on electric organ, for over three years he was the keyboard man at the Palm Lounge of the Grand Hotel, Coolangatta, with Art Lunden as compere. A confirmed traveller, who enjoyed living out of a suitcase, Johnny spent time working in Melbourne and Sydney, as well as the USA, England and Scotland. Finally settling on the Gold Coast in 1989, he died suddenly from a heart attack on his way to a rehearsal — a trouper to the end, or, putting it with far more justice —the essential entertainer who loved an audience.

About the winners

Ailsa Mitchell is a masterful singer and composer who creates music from a place of curiosity. Drawing influence from Celtic and contemporary folk sounds, the diverse music scene around her and the natural world, her playful approach results in a sound that is tender, imaginative and heartfelt. With vocal stylings that earn her comparison to Elizabeth Fraser and birdsong, the music she makes pairs well with cold ocean swims, scenic road trips and the crackle of a fire. Produced by Josh Barber (Goyte, Greta Ray) her debut EP, Orange and Blue was released to a warm reception in April of 2023 and she has had the joy of playing at a handful of festivals such as National folk festival, Queenscliff Music Festival and Yackandanah Folk festival and is thrilled to continue sharing her music and stories.

Sid Acharya is an Australian composer who is known for his internationally acclaimed studio albums and music for film. His style is most recognizable by use of electronic moving elements with deep and melancholic orchestral textures, mostly within the genre of contemporary classical music. His music has been used for a variety of purposes with NASA, Sony, Arsenal F.C., Houston Space Centre, Lisbon Aquarium, and more. Additionally, Sid composes music for film and advertising, with recent film “Beat” releasing on STAN, Amazon Prime and Apple TV, and “The Promise”, which screened across 12 cinemas around Australia and is expected to release early 2024. For the former, Sid was awarded the AFIN International Film Festival Award for Best Original Score at the 2022 Brisbane ceremony. Sid has also achieved major milestones through the release of his solo albums, amassing over 10 million streams on Spotify, and at least 15 million streams across YouTube. As of 2023, Sid continues to release his internationally acclaimed albums, and composes music for award-winning films.

Jessica Wells was born in Florida, USA in 1974 and migrated to Australia at the age of 11. She completed her Bachelor of Music degree in Composition at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music in 1996 and graduated with first class honours. This was followed by a Master’s Degree in Composition under Dr. Bozidar Kos completed in 1998. After teaching composition at the Conservatorium for four years, she spent time living in Antwerp, Belgium and then returned to Sydney in 2003. She then completed a Masters in Screen Composition at the AFTRS (Australian Film, Television and Radio School) in 2005, and was awarded the Film Critic’s Circle Award for “Best Display of Technical Excellence” for her work on eight short films. Her orchestral music and arrangements have been performed by many of the major Australian orchestras (SSO, MSO, TSO, WASO and QSO). She was commissioned to write two pieces for the Victorian Opera’s “Seven Deadly Sins” project featuring seven singers and a full orchestra, which was acclaimed as a highlight of the year in Melbourne’s art scene. “Moon Fire” for Carillon and Electronic track has been nominated for an Art Music Award in 2017 and will be performed in Barcelona as part of the Carillon World Congress in July. Jessica was previously nominated for an Art Music Award for her orchestral work “Ainulindale” in 2001.

Thomas Balshaw is a composer, orchestrator, and pianist currently in his final year of studying a Bachelor of Music Composition at the Queensland Conservatorium of Music, mentored by Dr Michal Rosaik. His composition ‘Spring’ was chosen for performance at this year’s Brisbane Festival, presented by the Conservatorium Symphony Orchestra and conducted by Associate Professor Dr. Peter Morris at the Film Harmonic. Thomas works closely with the Griffith University Film School, receiving the 2023 Award for Best Music Composition for Animation. Additionally, he composed the music for student film ‘Feather’ winning in the student category at the Vision Splender Outback Film Festival. He scored the music for Griffith’s ‘Humans of the Outback’ documentary, celebrating the Queensland College of Arts relationship with Winton. Beyond his achievements in composition, Thomas also works as a piano and theory teacher, specialising in using music therapy techniques to assist individuals with autism and other cognitive learning disabilities. Looking ahead, Thomas has aspirations to further his studies, undertaking a Master’s Degree at AFTRS and pursuing a career in film composition and orchestration.

For further information please contact Kingston Anderson on 0419635358 or


Subscribe to our newsletter

Related Post