About the Johnny Dennis Music Awards for Light Music

The Johnny Dennis Music Awards were established in perpetuity through the will of Dennis John Mole. The English-born entertainer, known as Johnny Dennis, migrated to Australia and spent his life entertaining and playing music.

He 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 today Perpetual Trustee Company Limited are sole trustee of the awards.

The Awards are administered by the Australian Guild of Screen Composers (AGSC), on behalf of Perpetual Trustee Company Limited and held every two years. They are open to Australian composers who nominate a project of light music and submit an application that is assessed by a panel of judges for the Awards.  The current Awards are for 4 x $5,000 prizes given to  composers assessed by the panel and confirmed by the Trustee.

Read about the 2021 Johnny Dennis Music Award winners below.


2021 Winners clockwise from top left: Chiara Cimilio (Mami Baby), Robbie Melville, Kate Lucas (Coda Chroma) and David Megarrity (Tyrone and Lesley)

Four talented composers have been chosen as the 2021 winners for the biennial Johnny Dennis Music Award. They join a talented roll call of Australian composer recipients of the legacy left by the late Dennis John Mole, known as Johnny Dennis, over the past three decades the awards have been held.

Cash awards of $5,000 each will be bestowed on Kate Lucas, Robbie Melville, Chiara Cimilio and David Megarrity. These composers work across diverse areas of music composition and performance and have used the time over the past 2 years to develop their composing work while performances, tours and creative collaborations have been put on hold.

AGSC President, Antony Partos said of the winners: “I am thrilled to learn about the four composers selected for this years’ Johnny Dennis Music Awards. I wish the winners every success for their projects and look forward to hear the final results and how their work is shared with the wider community.

Kate Lucas, a Victorian-based composer and songwriter, plans to use her award prize money to promote a new album of music she is releasing and pitching to publishers and record labels, under the name Coda Chrome. Speaking of the award, she noted: “Receiving this award in recognition of my songwriting means so much to me! I feel so encouraged, and excited about being able to share my music more broadly thanks to the funding support this award provides.

Composer and performer David Megarrity from Queensland will also put his prize money towards recording and releasing a new album of ukulele and double bass music, String, with his performance duo Tyrone and Lesley. He noted the award “recognises the kind of music and songs that don’t sit neatly in drop-down lists of genre and style. Light music for dark times. That’s the kind of music we need”.

Guitarist Robbie Melville from Victoria plans to use the funds to record, release, promote and tour a new album of jazz-inspired music, written for solo guitar, the result of composing at home during the many lockdowns of 2020-2021. He said  “As a musician, I am constantly striving to create music that is meaningful to me in the hope that listeners may share a similar aesthetic or experience. Being chosen as one of the recipients of the Johnny Dennis Music Awards creates an opportunity to continue to compose, record and perform music to the best of my ability.”

While emerging composer, songwriter and musician Chiara Cimilio from Sydney, will also use her award prize for the promotion and release of new work under her alter ego Mami Baby. When told of the win, she said: “...this award has allowed me such greater means to continue crafting my art to the best of my ability. I’m honoured to be given this opportunity and I’m so excited to share what’s to come.”

The four join a long list of past winners including award-winning screen composers Allyson Newman, Brett Aplin, Pru Montin, recent ARIA nominee Nat Bartsch and noted jazz artist Phillip Johnston.