Jess Howell and Mandy Vega Carrera's dedication to singing and performing have been recognised on an international level in the Charleston International Music Competition.
The students from the Highlands put the region and Australia on the map by winning first and second place in the Contemporary Music Competition for singers aged 17 to 20.
The aim of the South Carolina based competition is to shine a spotlight on emerging artists of all ages across the globe.
"Having a certificate saying that I have been recognised at an international level has helped me apply for university, and pointing out things I have done," Miss Howell said.
"I was really excited and very surprised, I did not consider winning because it's international," Miss Vega Carrera added.
The HSC students had to submit a video of their best performance for the competition.
"It was more quiet and I had more time and reflected, it allowed me to do more takes," Miss Vega Carrera continued.
This was familiar territory for both students, who have been preparing audition tapes for entries to universities and colleges.
"It gave me a chance to listen to a bunch of old recordings and compare their quality, instead of doing one in a tight time frame," Miss Howell said.
"The competition has a bigger range of people, I'm used to doing things around the Highlands."
Miss Howell came first with her rendition of Ren and Chincilla's dong How To Be Me, where she also played the guitar.
The Bowral High School student has been a regular performer at the Schmokin' café in Berrima (below), and has also busked and performed in restaurants and a local music festival.
She has also part of the Create and Celebrate initiative which provides youth with the chance to explore the entertainment industry.
"When you get on stage and everyone looks at you, you're nervous and there is the first note and the first chord, and there is the rush of energy and adrenaline," she said.
Miss Vega Carrera brought her love of musical theatre to her performance of Heart of Stone from Six the Musical which came second.
The Moss Vale High School student grew up in a musical family and has performed in a local choir with her sisters.
She has also explored musical theatre through school plays and was part of the cast in The Addams Family with the Southern Highlands Youth Arts Council.
Miss Vega Carrera was also part of the cast in Furey Theatre Company's production of Mama Mia.
"As a whole, performing with people that I do know or don't know, that togetherness makes me feel like something is there," she said.
The aspiring performer also plays piano, dances and teaches hip-hop classes in Moss Vale.
Both students have strengthened their vocal skills and explored different musical genres at the Wingecarribee Vocal Muster for a couple of years.
It is an initiative that strives to give aspiring performers masterclasses and a chance to build their confidence through performing for the local community at a variety of events.
"Two years ago, when I started at the Wingecarribee Vocal Muster, I was very shy, and my singing was quiet," Miss Vega Carrera said.
"I have come out of my shell and have learned a lot since then."
Miss Howell agreed that her confidence has "skyrocketed" since she has been part of the Vocal Muster, and she has been "inspired" by her peers.
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