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Shirley Apthorp

Journalist and musical critic

Born in South Africa, Shirley Apthorp grew up in Australia and studied music at the University of Tasmania. She began writing about music for local and national publications as a student. A Churchill Fellowship, and Australia Council Grant, and a Goethe Institute scholarship for Key People in the Arts took her to Europe in 1994.


Since 1996, she has lived in Berlin, writing about music for the Financial Times (UK), Bloomberg (USA), Opera Magazine, Opera Now, Opera News, Opernwelt, and numerous other international publications.


Her work has been published in the UK, the USA, Australia, Germany, Austria, Japan, Brazil, the Netherlands, Norway, and South Africa. She has taught courses in music journalism for the Australian Youth Orchestra, the South African National Youth Orchestra Foundation, and the Salzburg Festival, and spoken at conferences on the subject in Amsterdam, Berlin, London, Lisbon, New York, and Rotterdam.


In 2010, she founded Umculo, a non-profit organisation which supports social development through music theatre in South Africa. Activities include staged music theatre productions with and for young singers from disadvantaged communities, as well as workshops, masterclasses, and collaborations. Umculo’s “Comfort Ye” was awarded the YAMA prize for best international work of music theatre in 2015, and its “Lamento” received the Rotterdam Music Days’ award in 2017.


The company was nominated for the International Opera Awards in London in 2017.