Dr John Peterson

Senior Lecturer
BMus (Hons); MMus.; PhD (Sydney)
School of the Arts & Media


+61 2 9385 4870
Room 105, Level 1, Robert Webster
Kensington Campus
Fields: Music Composition
Tags: The performing arts (incl. music, theatre and danc


John Peterson is a well-known Australian composer. He has Bachelor Music (1st Class Honours) and Master of Music degrees, and a PhD (Composition) from the University of Sydney. John studied composition with Peter Sculthorpe, Eric Gross, and Ross Edwards, and he has written works for many Australian chamber music groups and soloists. His original music for orchestra has been performed in Australia by the Ku-ring-gai Philharmonic Orchestra, the Queensland Philharmonic Orchestra, the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra, the West Australian Symphony Orchestra, and the Sydney Youth Orchestra; in New Zealand by the Auckland Philharmonia and the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra; and his work Rituals in Transfigured Time (1998) was recorded in Britain by the BBC National Orchestra of Wales.

On two occasions, in 1997 and again in 2001, John Peterson was shortlisted as a semi-finalist for Masterprize, an international competition for new orchestral music run jointly by BBC Music Magazine and the London Symphony Orchestra. 

In Australia in 2005, John Peterson was the winner of the prestigious Albert H. Maggs Composition Award.

His major choral works include Shadows and Light (2004), for SATB chorus, vocal soloists,string orchestra and percussion (commissioned by Sydney Philharmonia Choir); Mourning and the Light Within (2006), for SATB chorus and large orchestra (commissioned by the Royal Melbourne Philharmonic); and Dreams and Visions (2011), a 50 minute work for SATB chorus, soloists, string quartet and piano (commissioned by Sydney Gay & Lesbian Choir for their 20th Anniversary). Other recent chamber works include Fabulous Beasts (2012), for clarinet trio (commissioned by the Omega Ensemble); The Flames of Ancient Fires (2012), for Concert Band and Taiko Drum Ensemble (commissoned by MLC Burwood); Double Entendre (2013), for string quartet and piano and two dancers (commissioned by the UNSW Music to Movement Festival, and the result of a collaboration between Peterson, choreographer/dancer Sue Healey, and dancer Raghav Handa); The Immortal Spark (2013) for Double SATB Chorus and small ensemble (for Sydney Philharmonia Choir); and See, the Prismatic Colours Glisten (2013) for soprano, mezzo-soprano, clarinet, cello, and vibraphone (for vocal ensemble Halcyon). Shadow Dances, his work for gamelan ensemble and tenor saxophone, was performed at the 37th Bali Arts Festival in July 2015.

John Peterson's book, The Music of Peter Sculthorpe, is an analytical study of the music composed throughout Sculthorpe's life, during a career spanning more than sixty years. This book was published by Wildbird Music in 2014, and is available from www.wildbirdmusic.com.au.

In 2015 John Peterson won the Australian Flute Festival Composition Competition with his work for flute sextet entitled Emergence.

At UNSW, John Peterson teaches within the areas of music composition, film music, music theory and analysis.



Teaching in 2017

MUSC 1602: Materials and Structures of Music 1: Convenor

MUSC 1702: Performance Lab 1: Composition Tutor

MUSC 2602: Materials and Structures of Music 3: Convenor and Harmony Lecturer

MUSC 2702: Performance Lab 3: Composition Tutorials - Tutor


Teaching in 2016

MUSC 1602: Materials and Structures of Music 1: Convenor

MUSC 1603: Materials and Structures of Music 2: Convenor

MUSC 2602: Materials and Structures of Music 3: Convenor and Harmony Lecturer

MUSC 2603: Materials and Structures of Music 4: Convenor and Harmony Lecturer

MUSC 1702: Performance Lab 1: Composition Tutor

MUSC 1705: Performance Lab 2: Composition Tutor



Honours and prizes

2005: Albert H. Maggs Composition Award

2015 Australian Flute Festival Composition Competition (Winner)

Professional contribution

Member of Review Panel for Wirripang Pty Ltd

Affiliations and membership

Australian Music Centre

Musicological Society of Australia

AustralasianPerforming Right Association Limited (APRA)

Music Council of Australia

Music Arrangers' Guild of Australia Inc.

Wirripang Pty Ltd

Reed Music Pty Ltd