Music teacher shines at ARIA Awards
LEE Strickland basked in the cameras and lights of the ARIA Awards on Wednesday night in Sydney mixing it with Australia's best in the music industry.
The Innisfail born and raised music teacher was nominated for the Telstra ARIA Music Teacher of the Year Award and while she didn't take home the silverware on the night the special education advocate was already a winner.
Lee said the music industry's night of nights was an amazing experience that she didn't want to end.
"It was mind-blowing, I honestly think it's going to be probably one of three most defining times of my life," she said.
"Honestly, I don't even know how to explain it. I don't know what will match it - it was very memorable.
"Actually being there and celebrating the whole experience was in itself a huge award and absolutely awesome.
"All four finalists were in attendance so we got to hang out together and got to know each other which was really wonderful. The other three finalists were all so lovely and deserving."
Lee's amazing work at Narbethong State Special School in Brisbane had many people coming up to the former Innisfail State High School student and commending her.
"People came up to me at the end of the awards to say congratulations and to say how much the film that they saw of what I do meant to them. Also how it inspired them and taught them about children with disabilities," she said.
"I had some lovely conversations with Kate Ceberano and got a selfie with Tones and I who was very deserving of her awards and down to earth.
"A wonderful gentleman who wished to remain anonymous also donated $5000 to my school and the other three finalists' music departments which is so wonderful."
Before Lee travelled to Sydney on Monday she enlisted her students' help in choosing her outfit for the awards.
"I had one of the girls choose my shoes to wear so she was pretty excited to feel the shoes, which pair felt better and which pair I should wear on the night," Ms Strickland said.
"They were so excited before I left. I'm brought my dress in on Friday for them to feel because obviously not all of them can see the dress, but it's very tactile due to a lot of sequins - I got my sparkle on."
The support of her family and hometown was not lost on Lee since being named as a finalist for the award last month.
"I'd like to thank Innisfail for supporting me. I received a little booklet from Innisfail State School with all the students' signatures which was very sweet and really cute," she said.
"I give my love to my sister Jules, my parents Clive and Zena and my partner Nic.
"I think we've all done well to get the message out about music education for disabled children and it's working."