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Professor in Music Education, University of Western Australia

Nicholas Bannan's earliest musical experience was as a chorister at Canterbury Cathedral. He went on to study Music at Cambridge University, where he specialised in vocal studies and composition. He has taught in several schools, including Eton College and the Yehudi Menuhin School.

He was Director of Music at Desborough School, Maidenhead, where the choir he conducted was in demand to work with London orchestras and made frequent broadcasts on television and radio. He continued to develop his work as a composer, winning the Fribourg Prize for Sacred Music in 1986 and completing commissions for the Allegri and Grieg Quartets, the Guildhall String Ensemble, Cantemus Novum of Antwerp, and the Gentlemen of St Paul's Cathedral.

He was for 12 years the conductor of The Esterhazy Singers, a London chamber choir that specialised in performing the music of Haydn and his contemporaries with the period instruments of the Esterhazy Chamber Orchestra. He also directed the contemporary music groups 1913 Ensemble and Act of Creation, and worked on electro-acoustic projects with the composer Rolf Gehlhaar and the Elektrodome company. He was a Winston Churchill Fellow in 1992, travelling through the USA in preparing a report on the training of choral directors and singing teachers.

His interests as an educator focused increasingly on means of releasing children's creativity, and he formed the partnership Compose Yourself! to provide workshop opportunities for pupils and in-service training for teachers. He carried out research at the University of Reading into the use of electronic resources in vocal education and the means by which vocal potential can be released in singers of all ages and abilities, and this has led to his Harmony Signing project, a new pedagogical system for developing aural sensitivity and creative potential through group singing. He has also worked with Alzheimer’s patients on the potential of singing for retaining social communication between carers and people with dementia.

He was awarded his doctorate in 2002 for a study of the evolutionary origins of the human singing voice. From 1999 to 2005 he was Director of the Music Teaching in Professional Practice Initiative, a distance-learning programme leading to Diploma and Masters qualifications administered at the University of Reading.

Nicholas was founder-editor of the journal Mastersinger published by the Association of British Choral Directors, and Artistic Director of ABCD’s 1996 conference in Oxford. He co-edited the Ashgate publication The Reflective Conservatoire with George Odam and is currently working with the archaeologist Steven Mithen on an edited book for Oxford University Press entitled Music, Language and Human Evolution.

He continues to compose, and brings to his teaching the assumption that the purpose of engaging with the music of the past is to develop the confidence and fluency to enable original self-expression. He is a keen follower of cricket and rugby, both of which he played in his youth.


  • –present
    Professor in Music Education, University of Western Australia