A tailored Artistic Development Program

After its first full year of operation, Melba Opera Trust provided support to seven scholarship recipients, distributing a total of $60,000. Melba’s inaugural selection panel included Professor Melville Waters, Michael Leighton- Jones and Suzanne Johnston.

With its first cohort of scholars came the launch of a tailored Artistic Development Program. Taken from Dame Nellie’s approach of nurturing all aspects of development and engaging in the “business” of singing, recipients worked with Melba management to develop their own intensive development program.

Each program is required to satisfy four criteria that Melba Opera Trust considers essential training tools for developing a well-rounded performer: vocal tuition, intensive language training, stagecraft/movement and professional development.

Funded activities can vary from vocal lessons and coaching, to performance psychology, allowances for music purchases, the preparation of business cards, professional headshots and allowances for performance attire.

This holistic, individualised and intensive approach has been a building block for the Melba program and has been sustained throughout its ten years.

Daniel Carison and Morgan Balfour

As well as helping to promote independence, it encourages recipients to be accountable for their own development and ensures that each artist is supported at their own pace while addressing their own priorities.

Memories at Como

The seven 2010 Melba Scholars were introduced at a reception at Como House in South Yarra on 19 May – fittingly, the date of Nellie Melba’s birthday (born 1861).

It was to be the first Meet the Scholars soirée, an event which is now the cornerstone of our annual activity calendar. Recipients were presented with a signed copy of Founding Patron Pamela, Lady Vestey’s book Melba: A Family Memoir. Jacqueline Porter, holder of the Dame Nellie Melba Scholarship for 2010, spoke on behalf of the scholars, providing insight into the program.

2010 Melba Scholars

The seven 2010 Melba Scholars were introduced at a reception at Como House in South Yarra on 19 May – fittingly, the date of Nellie Melba’s birthday (born 1861).

“I have been challenged, questioned and encouraged to work at a higher level – now I feel inspired and excited by new possibilities in my singing.”

– Jacqueline Porter, 2010

Margaret Schofield Opera Scholarship

“Our mother’s life was devoted to music. She had a great affection for the Melba Conservatorium as it existed during her life and was a great supporter of singers and opera in Melbourne,”

– Dr Andrew Cochrane, 2010

In recognition of one of Australia’s leading pianists, and her achievements as a musician and educator, the Margaret Schofield Opera Scholarship was established by her family to assist a promising early-career student at the Melba Conservatorium where Margaret taught and accompanied for many years.

Margaret’s children, Andrew and Fiona Cochrane, decided to continue the scholarship with Melba Opera Trust. In 2010 it was awarded to mezzo-soprano Sophie Yelland who now continues her operatic career in the UK. Following Sophie, tenors Samuel Sakker and Matthew Reardon received the scholarship.

Margaret Schofield

Samuel was accepted into the Jette Parker Young Artist Program with Royal Opera House, Covent Garden and is now enjoying a busy and successful freelance opera career around Europe and the UK.

Matthew was awarded the Australian International Opera Award to study with renowned tenor Dennis O’Neill in Cardiff, Wales. He is currently touring with Opera Australia.

2011 Recipient Samuel Sakker

In 2015, following the launch of Melba’s new opera repetiteur scholarship, Andrew and Fiona agreed to direct the scholarship for that purpose. Since then, it has provided an invaluable pathway to Simon Bruckard, Jonathan Wilson and Adam McMillan.

Our first Melba Champions

John and Elizabeth Wright-Smith had their first introduction to the Melba at a candlelight concert at Domaine Chandon as part of the 2009 Melba Festival. Performances from Stephanie Gibson and Nathan Lay clearly made an impact, as it was from that moment that John and Liz began their plans to support emerging singers.

“I hope we see some young singers mature, go free, go wild, achieve their maximum potential – and be happy with themselves,”

– John Wright-Smith, 2010

In 2010 it was announced that Melba Opera Trust would receive its first commitment to endow fully into perpetuity a scholarship in its program: the John & Elizabeth Wright-Smith Scholarship. The first recipient was, fittingly, baritone Nathan Lay with the scholarship’s launch in 2011.

The purpose of the scholarship was (and remains) to provide talented young singers with the funding to undertake a comprehensive operatic training program, continue their vocal development and help them to create strong foundation from which to launch a successful career.

Subsequent recipients, Brenton Spiteri, Nicholas Tolputt and Samuel Piper have certainly achieved that mission.

John & Liz Wright-Smith with 2017-2019 recipient Samuel Piper

The gift of music

David Jones, Siobhan Stagg & Michael Coleman

In March 2010, David Jones, opera enthusiast and Melba supporter, gifted a digital piano to Melba’s Siobhan Stagg at a reception and morning tea at Ruskin Hall in Richmond.

David had purchased the Yamaha CLP- 330 Clavinova Digital Piano as an auction prize at Melba’s inaugural gala dinner in the previous November and decided to donate it to Siobhan who was living at Trinity College – The University of Melbourne.

At the time, David said Siobhan had a promising voice, passion and dedication, and that the piano would help her with practice at a time when her funds were in limited supply.

In 2018, then living in Germany, Siobhan contacted Melba Opera Trust and reciprocated the generosity by donating the instrument back to Melba so that it could be a perpetual source of support for future scholars.

“I have been fortunate to raise money for a number of promising young opera singers and it is a great pleasure to closely watch their development.”

– David Jones, 2010

Melba Artists

In 2009 Melba Opera Trust was proud to launch its performance initiative, Melba Artists. The program was designed to complement the artistic development of scholarship recipients by providing performance experience for singers to put their learning into practice. It also served the dual purpose of providing the Melba community with an avenue to enjoy opera ‘up-close’, at an event or even in their own home.

The program has grown from strength to strength and now provides an entrée to life as a freelance artist. Melba has the role of guiding the experience, ensuring that performances are prepared, rehearsed and delivered to the highest standard.

A rich 2010 performance program set the scene for years to come. Events included Fiona Jopson presenting a program of operatic delights at a private Melbourne home and an exclusive dinner party enjoyed a program of Puccini and romantic opera for a birthday celebration; afternoon tea and opera at St John’s Anglican Church in Toorak with Stacey Alleaume and Sophie Yelland giving a recital to parishioners and guests; Ann Blainey, author of I Am Melba, giving an insightful Melba presentation at the Ian Potter Museum followed by a musical recital from Trust recipient Stephanie Gibson; a recital at Melbourne’s Opera Society to celebrate Christmas in July; a performance by Sophie Yelland at a Bastille Day luncheon at an exclusive Melbourne club and five Melba Scholars performing at Domaine Chandon for the Gala Opening of the Melba Festival in October.

The launch of Opera in the Garden at Beleura House & Garden was a highlight of the year and continued to be a much-anticipated event for several years to follow. Guests enjoyed semi-staged performances set amidst the beautiful gardens of the Tallis Estate, hosted by Director of the Tallis Foundation, Anthony Knight OAM.

2017 Scholars in performance


Amelia Joscelyne

In a legacy that endures, 2010 marked the 20th anniversary of the Amelia Joscelyne Memorial Scholarship.

The inaugural recipient was Fiona Chatwin in 1990; the year before, friends and relatives of Amelia Joscelyne, a young student at the Melba Conservatorium, established the scholarship in her memory. The benefaction is made up of donations large and small from a group of passionate individuals and its impact over the years has been profound.

Amelia’s mother and Founding Patron of Melba Opera Trust, Mary- Jane Joscelyne OAM, has enjoyed getting to know the scholarship recipients, many of whom stay in touch with letters, updates, and invitations to performances.

“I’d like them all to go as far as they wish to go in their singing careers – it’s lovely to see them fulfill their dreams.”

– Mary-Jane Joscelyne, 2010

Melba Opera Trust remains the trustee for the Amelia Joscelyne Memorial Scholarship and this year, we celebrated its 30th anniversary.


Appointed to Board

2010-2012 – Fiona Menzies

2010-2011 – Paul Crapper, Treasurer

2010-present – Roz Zalewski-Ruskin

Professor Melville Waters retires after 11 years. Mel & Nina Waters award created in recognition.

2010-2019 – Peter Garnick, Managing Director

2010 Scholars

Jacqueline Porter

Stephanie Gibson

Fiona Jopson

Siobhan Stagg

Sophie Yelland

Stacey Alleaume

Janet Szepei Todd

Dame Nellie Melba Scholarship

Dame Nellie Melba Reserve Scholarship

Amelia Joscelyne Memorial Scholarship

Amelia Joscelyne Memorial Reserve Scholarship

Dame Nellie Melba Opera Trust Scholarship

Dame Nellie Melba Opera Trust Scholarship

Dame Nellie Melba Opera Trust Scholarship

The articles contained within this page were curated and compiled from previous editions of Melba Opera Trust publications da capo and The Melba.