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Mark Dunbar : Associate Artist

Fail, fail again, fail better - Samuel Beckett

Photo of Mark Dunbar

Photo: Michele Milner


Mark Dunbar works as a composer, performer, musical/artistic director, project manager, and educator. He is the composer of two operas and a dozen large-scale music-theatre works.

Mark studied at the Victorian College of the Arts (VCA) and the Monash University in Melbourne, and holds a BA (with distinction), a Graduate Diploma (in musical direction and composition), and an MA (ethnomusicology).

Mark has, & continues to compose large works for theatre. He has written two operas: Magda's Fortune - based on the life of Magda Goebbels (2013); Inochka, Volodya & Me - exploring the triangular relationship between the leader of the Russian revolution, Lenin, his wife Krupskaya & his lover, Inessa Armand (2016). Two dance works: House of Incest - based on the prose-poem by Anais Nin (1982), The Children of the Game - based on the novel Les Enfants Terribles by Jean Cocteau (2011, rev. 2021). He has also composed 8 'song-stories'. They are: (for Brisbane Canto Coro) Hornet's Wedding (2003, rev. 2013), Anderson & Ipeta (2005), and Damage (2007) - all three explore Aboriginal & non-Aboriginal race relations; The Rape of a Creature - a satire of Shakespeare's The Rape of Lucretia (2009); Bielbah: Double Helix - where two tragedies wrap around each other (2010); A Man & his Children - based on the novel The Man Who Loved Children by Christina Stead (2014); Pye in the Sky - based on the fantasy Mr Pye by Mervyn Peake (2018); and Slips - based on the life of Lou Andreas Salome (2020).

As a performer he co-founded the Eureka Ensemble and Lenko. Both groups toured and performed widely in the 1980s and 1990s, focusing on promoting new music that grew out of the dynamism and energy of Australia's cultural diversity. He also toured &/or performed extensively with Australia Felix, Melbourne Workers' Theatre, Starlight Strings, Melbourne New Music, and the New Audience Ensemble.

Mark's work as a conductor involves exploring the dramatic potential of choral singing. To that end he founded two 60-voice mixed choirs: Canto Coro (Melbourne) and Brisbane Canto Coro. Over two decades, with the support of these wonderfully committed and progressive people, Mark has presented newly commissioned works (including: Little City, Teatro, Exilio, Somos Fuertes, 1975: A Love Story); and large choral works from modern Greece and Latin America (including Canto General, Axion Esti, Cantata Santa Maria de Iquique, Mauthhausen, Epitafios). Other conducting gigs include a 15-year stint directing the Giuseppe Verdi Men's Choir, residencies in Geneva with Coeur Overt and four years directing the Surrey Hills Community Orchestra.

As an educator, Mark established and toured with the Ferny Grove High School choir, and conducted the Siena choir for eight years. Predominantly though, he has worked at the Aboriginal Centre for the Performing Arts for a decade. In this time he taught a range of material including literacy, musical literacy, theatre improvisation, and Indigenous cultural analysis.

Complimenting his performing arts career, Mark has been active politically, demonstrated through his work as a member of the Central Committee of the Greek Progressive Youth of Australia; president and management committee member of Brisbane Ethnic Music & Arts Centre (BEMAC); management committee member of Melbourne Workers Theatre; peer panel member of the Sunshine Coast Regional Arts Development Fund (RADF); Academic Board member of the VCA Music School, and Member of the VCA College Council.

Mark Dunbar — current to August 2021

Studied with

Felix Werder (1980 - 1983)

John Hopkins (1981 - 1983)


Collaborated with

Irine Vela (1995 - 2006)


Influenced by

Leonard Bernstein

Kurt Weill


Selected Commissions

  Work Commission Details
Bielbah: Double Helix : a song-story in 20 scenes (2010) Commissioned by Brisbane Canto Coro.
Damage : a music-drama in 7 scenes (2007) Commissioned by Brisbane Canto Coro
Digital sheet music sample Anderson & Ipeta : a musical in one act (2005) Commissioned by Brisbane Canto Coro & Blackface Productions
Hornets Wedding (music theatre) (2003) Commissioned by Brisbane Canto Coro in 2002
Digital sheet music sample Polemiphony (music theatre) (1983) Commissioned by Australia Felix (Ensemble).