Pete Churchill

Hon ARAM

Jazz - Voice; Composition and Arranging; Repertoire and Improvisation
Research Programmes - Professor of Jazz

Singer and arranger with the Kenny Wheeler Vocal Project

Experience as musical director in the West End

Pete was born in London in 1961 and following his schooling here he studied music at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada - eventually returning to London again for a post-graduate year in composition and arranging at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama.

Although he is well known as a teacher, Pete also manages a hectic freelance career both as a writer and as a performer - being equally well known as a jazz pianist and a singer.

His long-standing interest in musical theatre and song writing has resulted in two appearances at the Vivien Ellis Prize for new musicals. In 1988 he won the Special Prize for the gospel musical David and Goliath and in 1992 he was outright winner with a show entitled Cecil Jackson Fights Back. Songs from both these shows subsequently gained Gold and Platinum discs when released in Denmark. Following this in 1993, Pete's reputation as a jazz pianist and vocal coach led to a year's hard labour as musical director for Five Guys named Moe in the West End and he subsequently decided to return to the more precarious life of the freelance jazz musician and educator.

Since that time Pete has been fortunate to travel the world both as a performer and as a teacher. His work in both these areas has taken him to Finland, Russia, France, Bulgaria as well as all around the British Isles where his role as an educator takes him to schools, community centres and into prisons. In Australia, he spent three weeks running a professional development course for music teachers in jazz skills. This trip was a result of his close association with the groundbreaking jazz syllabus developed by the ABRSM for which he is a consulting editor and a contributing composer and arranger. Other educational publications include a Small Band Jazz series for Stainer & Bell Publishers and a forthcoming book for Oxford University Press outlining his method of teaching choirs by ear.

As a pianist, Pete has worked with many of the leading jazz names in the UK and abroad, and for the last decade has been the UK musical director for the legendary American jazz singer Mark Murphy. He also runs a trio under his own name with a critically acclaimed album released last year called The Bad and the Beautiful featuring the great Scottish sax player Bobby Wellins.

As a singer, Pete is a member of the Kenny Wheeler Vocal Project with Norma Winstone, and in addition to this, his work with Kenny both as a singer and arranger has led to high profile appearances at the Berlin jazz festival and the summer Jazz festival in central Finland. Most recently he conducted the Kenny Wheeler Big Band at concerts in London and at the Appleby Festival in the north of England.

Over the past few years, Pete has not only directed Ellington's Sacred Music with Stan Tracey, but last year found him singing the baritone lead as well in a performance with the Echoes of Ellington Orchestra at Bury St Edmunds Cathedral. In June of 2004 he led the Glasgow Jazz Festival Chorus, opening the festival in a concert with Lianne Carol and the Bancroft brothers. He has travelled worldwide in his capacity as a choral director and educator — recently he has travelled to Australia and Hong Kong.

With such experience behind him, Pete has become recognised as a composer for, and director of, large ensembles and able to handle the logistical and administrative challenges of bringing disparate forces together. Recent commissions include two oratorios, David and Goliath for five hundred children, soloists and big band (performed at the Royal Albert Hall in 2003) and Babel  for narrator, five hundred strong children's choir and nonet commissioned last year by Barking and Dagenham music services. December 2004 saw the premiere of a piece called Bethlehem combining Israeli and Palestinian poetry with a traditional Christmas carol. It was commissioned by St Marylebone School in London and scored for three choirs, orchestra, soloist, rhythm section and an African drumming ensemble.

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