From humble beginnings in 1965, the School of Music – Conservatorium has grown into a major music school of international standing that continues to change and adapt to contemporary needs in tertiary music education.

2017 to present

In 2017, Professor Cat Hope was recruited as Head of School, bringing more changes and new initiatives, such as an increased focus on Australian music and socio-economic, gender and cultural diversity. In 2019, composition and creative music technology were merged into one stream; 2020 will see a popular music studies stream under Rod Davies. A range of new staff joined the team, including a new Indigenous staff member, Aaron Wyatt.

2009 - 2016

With the appointment of Associate Professor Thomas Reiner as Acting Head of School in mid-2009, the School embarked on a number of new initiatives, including a review of the Bachelor of Music degree. The re-organised and streamlined course created a clear pathway for students to study Composition, Musicology (including Ethnomusicology) or Performance. The demand for our Bachelor of Music degree increased by 44%, the largest in our history.

International engagement increased, seeing students travelling to such places at Brazil and New York (USA) to undertake part of their studies.

In 2011, Robert Burke was appointed Head of School and introduced many new initiatives including the partnering of major festivals such as Melbourne International Jazz Festival and the Melbourne Arts Festival.

New tenured staff appointments included musicologist Dr Paul Watt, trumpeter Paul Williamson, conductor Dobbs Franks and trombonist/arranger Jordan Murray. Professors Tony Gould, Paul Grabowsky and Richard Divall were appointed Vice Chancellor’s Professorial Fellows and the Monash Orchestra was developing into one of the best university orchestras in Australia under the baton of Fabian Russell.

In 2012 – Professor Paul Grabowsky was appointed executive director of  The Academy of Performing Arts and the School of Music – Conservatorium changed its name to Sir Zelman Cowen


Under Heads Peter Handsworth and then Associate Professor Craig De Wilde, the Bachelor of Music and double degree courses introduced instrumental and vocal pedagogy and professional practice. The Bachelor of Music Composition stream and the PhD in Composition admitted its first candidates.

In 2002, Robert Burke started the now highly successful Jazz and popular studies program.

The number of performance and academic staff grew to accommodate changes in curriculum and research growth areas. Research-active staff and students continue to publish in Asian, Jewish and Australian music; and the School’s Archive of Asian and Australian Music (run by Professor Kartomi and archivist/researcher Bronia Kornhauser) continues to attract international attention.

In 2006, the Vice-Chancellor established the Monash University Academy of Performing Arts; oboist and conductor Mr Jeffrey Crellin was appointed Artist Director.

The inaugural Music in the Round festival was held in September 2007 and has become an annual fixture on Melbourne’s music scene.

In November 2007, music students participated in a 3-week study program at the Monash Centre in Prato Italy, a program that continues to this day.


Under the guidance of Professor Margaret Kartomi, the Department expanded to teach and research music performance and composition, as well as musicology and ethnomusicology. Research staff were appointed and the number of postgraduate students rose to 60.

A new Bachelor of Music (from 1993), as well as a range of double degree programs were established: Music/Arts, Music/Commerce, Music/Education, Music/Law and Music/Performing Arts.

The staff’s continuing international reputation in Asian (especially Southeast and South Asian) music research was complemented by emerging research strengths in historical musicology, popular music studies and composition.

From 1994, the Australian Archive of Jewish Music was established as a joint venture between the School of Music and the Australian Centre for Jewish Civilisation.

From 1995, the university established the Monash Arts Precinct on the Clayton campus with an expanded suite of fine concert and theatre venues in which to promote its musical and other performing arts activities.

As the Precinct developed, funding was found to create the Department’s new home in the Performing Arts Centre (1995) which facilitated many more performance opportunities.


Under Head Professor Trevor Jones, the Department concentrated on teaching and researching musicology and ethnomusicology (especially Indigenous Australian, Southeast Asian and South Asian music).

Staff members, including Professor Jones, Dr Stephen Wild, Dr Alice Moyle, Dr Margaret Kartomi and Dr Reis Flora established the School’s international research profile. The Department also enrolled an increasing number of postgraduate students.