Are you the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra’s next Rising Star?

4 March 2024, by Steph Eslake

For a young musician, the chance to perform solo with a world-class orchestra is the ultimate dream. And in a highly competitive music industry that requires years of training and dedication, the dream might feel distant to those who are still paving their way.

Then again, an opportunity could be just around the corner. And it could be tailored to suit young musicians themselves. It could be designed to give them an experience not only with one orchestra, but with the potential to help launch a solo career and play with other orchestras around the world in the years to come.

Sonya Pigot playing the piano

Sonya Pigot was just 17 years old when she won the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra’s 2014 Rising Star competition. A decade on, she has developed an extraordinary career in music that spans Australia to the United Kingdom – and ranges from solo performance to founding her own business.

“After performing with an orchestra like the TSO, this can put you in a position to get other opportunities with orchestras of international standing that I have been lucky enough to get over the years,” Sonya says. One of the opportunities she is quick to highlight is working in Italy with conductor Marius Stravinsky – a relative of famous composer Igor Stravinsky.

The TSO’s annual Rising Star Competition is now open for entries, providing a rare opportunity for one classical vocalist or orchestral instrumentalist up to the age of 22 years. Entrants will audition for the role of Rising Star – following in the footsteps of artists like Sonya – and will prepare to perform a movement from a concerto or similarly structured solo for orchestra.

The Rising Star will also win the Tim Bugg AM Prize worth $2500, which will help support their music education.

When she entered Rising Star, Sonya was “on the cusp” of leaving Australia to commence her music degree at the Royal College of Music. The competition gave her a memorable send-off: her own performance of the Saint-Saëns Piano Concerto No.2 with the TSO.

“The TSO is an orchestra with such a depth of sound and intelligence that it was a beautiful moment to be on stage with them,” Sonya remembers.

Showing what's possible for Rising Stars

Sonya has since graduated from her Bachelor of Music (Honours), and studied her Masters of Performance at the Royal College of Music too. She used her Rising Star achievement to help launch a successful international performance career, winning competitions and giving recitals in venues such as Wigmore Hall, the Royal Albert Hall, and Steinway Hall – not to mention those in Spain, Hong Kong, Germany and beyond.

But perhaps the most unique of her professional experiences since Rising Star is her role as founder of Fearless Silk – an agency that provides garment design and tailoring for classical musicians who need to look and feel their best while performing.

Having developed Fearless Silk since 2020, Sonya says her business is “focused on connecting concert pianists with designers to allow the individual personality of the performer to be expressed through what they wear on stage”.

“I can't emphasise enough the importance of diversifying your abilities to produce multiple streams of income,” Sonya says about her dual career as soloist and entrepreneur.

“Every musician, no matter how successful, has to think of the longevity of a career and not just what their lives will look like their 20s. We are essentially entrepreneurs, and we have to market ourselves and act as such.”

Reaching for the stars

Flautist Kara Thorpe won the Rising Star Competition in 2023. She was studying her second year of a Bachelor of Music Performance at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music.

“As a young musician, I had really looked up to the previous Rising Star winners, and it always had been a goal of mine to play with the TSO,” Kara says.

It took her a few auditions – and then she made the cut, and enjoyed “an amazing experience performing with the TSO” as its Rising Star.


“I love the feeling of connection and musical conversation when playing with an orchestra, and the TSO brought the concerto to life with so much colour,” she shares.

“I feel really privileged to have been able to play with the musicians from the TSO who have been inspiring and important mentors for me throughout my musical journey.”

This year, Kara continues her studies and since Rising Star has also participated in the career-shaping Australian Youth Orchestra National Music Camp, which often involves an intense period of rehearsals culminating in a professional-level performance.

“Playing with the TSO was a great learning experience to prepare me for future performances, and gives me a lot of confidence approaching other solo performances.”

Like Sonya, Kara plans to undertake further study in Europe – and has big dreams to play flute in a professional orchestra.

"An amazing opportunity"

The annual Rising Star Competition is now open for entries, with audition dates scheduled on the TSO website.

Looking back on her experience, Sonya understands the way “competitions play a part in building the visibility of a musician’s profile, which is the most important thing when building a career”.

But it’s only the beginning of the story – and after an achievement like Rising Star, Sonya believes a career in music becomes a “culmination of networking, marketing, likability, the ability to learn things quickly, perform consistently, and all added together with a dollop of good luck for good measure”.

For Kara, the rare experience of playing with the TSO was a “musical highlight in 2023”.

“It is such an amazing opportunity to be able to play with a professional orchestra as a young musician, and I would really encourage anyone interested in applying to go for it!”

Learn more about the Rising Star Competition and past winners on the TSO website.
Entries close 5pm, Friday 15 March 2024.

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