Shirley Apthorp, born in 1969 in Cape Town, moved with her family to Australia as a child. She studied music theory and violin at the University of Tasmania, and began to work as a music critic for the regional and national press at the age of 20.
In 1994 she received a Churchill Fellowship and an Australia Council Grant to study music journalism in Europe. She has lived in Berlin since 1996, writing about music fort he Financial Times (UK), Bloomberg (USA), The Australian, and for music magazines in the UK, the USA, Norway, Brazil, Japan, Australia, Austria and Germany.
Visits to Venezuela’s “El Sistema” in 2005 and 2008 made her aware of the positive power of music for social change in economically disadvantaged communities. Her travels through South Africa convinced her that there was similar potential there, but with a focus on song. In 2010 she launched Umculo│Cape Festival , an organization with the aim of supporting social change through music in South Africa. She continues to work as a music journalist.