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John Peterson : Represented Artist

Peterson's music generally reflects his interest in tonal idioms, as well as the energy and rhythmic propulsion inherent in many popular music styles.

Random Audio Sample: Remembering Illawarra : five pieces for piano solo by John Peterson, from the CD Narratives and detours

Photo of John Peterson

Photo: Lee Martin


John Peterson was born in Wollongong, NSW, in 1957. He studied composition at the University of Sydney under the guidance of Ross Edwards, Eric Gross and Peter Sculthorpe. He completed his Bachelor of Music degree in 1990, Master of Music in 1994, and his PhD in Composition in 2003.

As a composer, Peterson has written chamber music for many ensembles including the Contemporary Singers, Sydney Mandolins, the Shostakovich String Quartet, Halcyon, and the Omega Ensemble, Sydney, and he has had several works for orchestra performed and/or recorded by orchestras across Australia and New Zealand. His choral music has frequently been performed by the Sydney Philharmonia Choirs.

In 1992, Peterson was a finalist in the Jean Bogan Prize for Piano Composition, and was a finalist in the Corbould Orchestral Composition Competition in 1995 and 2000. On two occasions (1997 and 2001), he was shortlisted for 'Masterprize', an international competition run jointly by BBC Music Magazine and the London Symphony Orchestra. The orchestral works selected for this competition, Rituals in Transfigured Time (1997) and Illawarra Music (2001), were recorded and subsequently broadcast on BBC Radio 3 in the United Kingdom and Europe.

John Peterson's music generally reflects his interest in tonal idioms, as well as the energy and rhythmic propulsion inherent in many popular music styles. A typical work of this type is Shadows and Light, a large-scale composition for SATB symphonic chorus, SATB semi-chorus, soprano and tenor soloists, string orchestra and percussion; this work was premiered by Sydney Philharmonia, conducted by David Porcelijn, in November 2004.

His music is available on several CD recordings, including Narratives and Detours, performed by Jeanell Carrigan (piano); Australian Song Cycles Vol. 1, performed by Wendy Dixon (soprano) and David Miller (piano); Ancient Rivers, performed by John Martin (piano); Hinterland, performed by Barry Cockcroft (saxophone) and Adam Pinto (piano); and After the Dark, performed by the Silo String Quartet.

John Peterson won the Albert H. Maggs Composition Award in 2005, and subsequently composed the chamber work Guilty Pleasures (2006) for the Australia Ensemble. He also won the Australian Flute Festival Composition Competition in 2015, with a flute sextet titled Emergence.

In 2011, he was commisisoned to write a large-scale choral work to celebrate the 20th Anniversary of the Sydney Gay & Lesbian Choir: the resulting work Dreams and Visions was premiered in 2011, and is currently available on a CD recording performed by the Sydney Gay & Lesbian Choir.

In 2013 John worked with choreographer and dancer Sue Healey to create Double Entendre, a work for dancers and instrumental ensemble that was premiered at the 'Movement to Music' Festival at the University of New South Wales.

In 2014, Peterson's book The Music of Peter Sculthorpe was published by Wildbird Music. This book is an analytical study of most of the major compositions written by Sculthorpe throughout his long and distinguished career.

John Peterson is currently Senior Lecturer in Music Theory and Composition in the School of the Arts and Media at the University of New South Wales.

John Peterson — current to October 2015

Studied with

Peter Sculthorpe (1987)

Ross Edwards (1999)


Teacher/Influence on

James Humberstone

Peggy Polias (2001)

Sam Weiss (2014 - 2018)

Awards & Prizes

Year Award Placing Awarded for
2005 Albert H Maggs Composition Award First Prize Guilty pleasures
1992 Jean Bogan Prize for Piano Composition High Commended Walking on glass

Selected Commissions

  Work Commission Details
Digital sheet music sample Visions in Blue : for oboe and piano (2017) Commissioned by Lyndie and David Leviston, Emily and Andrew Blomberg, especially for Kate Mostert on the occasion of her 21st birthday 8th June, 2017
Digital sheet music sample Satellite of Love and Fear : a cycle of five songs and two piano interludes (2017) Commissioned by Wendy Dixon.
Digital sheet music sample Songs for the moon : for soprano and piano (2016) Commissioned by Wendy Dixon.
Double entendre : for string quartet and piano (2013) Commissioned by the ‘Composition to Movement Festival 2013'
Fabulous beasts : for Bb clarinet, cello and piano (2012) Commissioned by Omega Ensemble, David Rowdon.
Dreams and visions (satb choir with soloists and chamber ensemble) (2011) Commissioned by Sydney Gay and Lesbian Choir.