FROM schoolgirl to ARIA chart topper and youth ambassador, Natasha Duarte has come a long way.
Fresh from a mentoring session with Molly Meldrum on Friday during which she showed him her latest music video, the 17-year-old still says she still can't believe how much the decision to enter a youth songwriting competition changed her life.
In 2010, aged 15, Natasha won second place in the ACMF Song Writing Competition for her song, Take it Away.
Encouragement from industry heavyweights and a nudge from her supportive mum gave her the confidence to enter another song, Wanted to Feel, in 2011. It was a winner.
Since then she has met "amazing and inspirational" people throughout Australia.
She is busy with her first tour, Loud at Lunchtime, a full-production tour aimed at reaching 100 schools this year. Her debut EP, released through Empire/MGM, landed at number 14 on the ARIA Australian Singles Chart within a week of hitting the airwaves.
This year, ACMF will reward the best efforts of school student songwriters with musical equipment, tuition and the chance to meet big names in the music industry. Natasha will sit on the judging panel.
The competition is free to enter and Natasha encourages "everyone who believes in their music" to have a go.
APN News and Media chief executive Brett Chenoweth said the company was proud to be the major sponsor of a competition which provided a "a real opportunity for students to be creative, demonstrate their songwriting talent and, at the same time, help build awareness of the invaluable music programs the ACMF runs for young people".
Entries close on September 28. For details, visit acmf.com.au.