The term genius is bandied around all too often, but Perth clarinet player Ashley Smith could well lay claim to it.
He is one of only two young musicians in the running for the prestigious MCA Freedman Fellowship for Classical Music, dubbed the "genius award".
"It is not genius at all - I just spend 10 hours in the practice room every day," Smith said from New Haven, Connecticut, where he is doing postgraduate studies at Yale University.
Smith, 27, grew up in Bayswater and studied music at the University of WA.
He went on to win the Symphony International Young Performer Award in 2010.
The $15,000 Freedman Fellowship, presented by the Music Council of Australia and the Freedman Foundation, carries the genius tag because its candidates must be nominated by Australia's top musicians and academics.
It has helped many young Australian musicians pursue an international career.
Smith said being a finalist had allowed him to work towards a recital tour of new clarinet works to Finland, the US and Australia.
He traces his passion for new and experimental classical music to the innovative Perth scene fostered by UWA, the WA Academy of Performing Arts and Tura New Music.
"When I come back to WA, I realise that the music happening in Perth is much more radical than is happening over here in the US," he said.
Sydney saxophonist Nick Russoniello is the other contender for the fellowship to be announced on September 19.