FROM everyday schoolgirl to ARIA chart-topper and youth ambassador, Natasha Duarte has come along 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 couldn't believe how much the decision to enter a youth song writing 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 and the second time around, she came out on top.
The moment she found out she had won Natasha realised: "I can be as good as I want to be".
Since then she has gone on to meet "amazing and inspirational" people all over the country.
She currently 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.
Meldrum has taken a personal interest in her career and Natasha regards him as a "close friend".
"He has been the most inspirational person and I just love that he is such a fan of music and never criticises," Natasha said "He has just loved me and always been amazingly supportive".
This year, ACMF is again giving school students across the country the chance to be rewarded for their song writing efforts with musical equipment, tuition and the change to meet with some of the biggest names in the industry.
Natasha will sit on the judging panel along with former Australian Idol judge Ian "Dicko" Dickson.
The competition is free to enter and Natasha encourages "everyone who believes in their music" to have a go.
Her advice to budding songwriters is to "keep going over the words and polish them".
"I always believe that you are your hardest critic. But if you feel in your self that's how you want the song to be, then that's how it should be," Natasha said "I truly believe that every genre has its place, but a timeless song beats everything."
APN News and Media CEO 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 song-writing 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 more information on prizes and categories visit acmf.com.au
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