Dr Christopher Sainsbury

Dr Christopher Sainsbury

School of Music

Room 504, ANU School of Music, Building 100, William Herbert Place


+61 2 6125 1228

BA (NRCAE), GradDipEd (UTS), MMus, PhD (Sydney)

Dr Christopher Sainsbury is an accomplished composer and a highly experienced music educator. He has made a sustained contribution to Australian music as a working composer in both professional and community music arenas for many years. His output ranges from sublimely simple songs to large orchestral works. With flair for melody and the art of orchestration, the Boston Globe reviewed his work as “cinematically tonal” and “dotted with vivid orchestral touches”.

Some highlights of his career include winning the Young Australian Composer Award in 1986 for his piece Australian Concert Overture. Also in 1986 he won the College Medal (from NRCAE) for academic excellence, and the Queensland Philharmonic Orchestra programmed his ambient orchestral work Horizons, which was the first in a series of many works to follow that use sounds from nature and explore relationship with place. In 1988 the Australian Chamber Orchestra commissioned his string orchestra piece Homage to TS Eliot. In 1994 his incidental music for the play Aboriginal Protestors (directed by Noel Tovey) was featured at the Sydney Festival and the Weimar Festival. His Concerto for Guitar (The Luthier) written for Spanish virtuoso Jose Maria Gallardo Del Rey was featured at the Darwin International Guitar Festival 2002. In 2004-2005 the Netherlands most renowned new music ensemble Duo Bosgraaf-Elias commissioned and toured My Eye Has Seen My Desire. In 2010 Sainsbury’s orchestral work First Light won an international scores competition hosted and performed by the New England Philharmonic Orchestra, Boston, USA. 

Sainsbury is a member of the Dharug nation (Indigenous people of Sydney). As an Australian composer with a focus on regionalism, he continues to explore ways to sound his Australian/Indigenous heritage. He uses influences from his “aural homelands” of Sydney and the Central Coast, referencing these in his music and career. In 2015 he was the recipient of an Art Central Grant from Regional Development Australia (Central Coast) for Civic Melancholy and Brackish Songs.

In 2016 he has commissions from Primal Dance Company for the modern ballet work Scar Tree (for the Sydney Fringe Festival and East Coast Tour), and also from former Senator Bob Brown to arrange The Earth Song (written by Brown) for community choir and for performance at Canberra Writer’s Festival 2016.

Sainsbury values the importance of teaching and education as an essential conjunct to his being as a composer and musician. He has held a full time position at Eora College—an Indigenous college in Sydney—where he was both a Music Teacher and/or Head of Arts and Media from 1990 - 2015. In this role he supervised numerous courses in music, theatre, screen studies and Aboriginal Arts. He has also taught at UTS and at Avondale College. He has substantial experience in writing courses from vocational to University settings, and was on the team of six who wrote the original suite of contemporary music courses for vocational education contexts in NSW. His work with Indigenous musicians has resulted in a major APRA grant in 2016 for the inaugural Indigenous Composer Initiative, to mentor emerging Indigenous composers towards performances in 2017.

In community settings he was director of a large community choir on the Central Coast for several years. He has also been musical director for many Aboriginal theatre and music events in Redfern including Sydney’s first Koorabaret in 1992.  For many years he was director of and composer for “A Band Called Bouddi”, an avant-garde mixed ensemble based in regional NSW. In this group his song cycle based on a lecture by Dr David Suzuki was premiered at the UNSW Environmental Symposium 1994 where Suzuki was a guest speaker. Sainsbury has performed his own compositions from his solo guitar CD Anima at venues in all the south-eastern states.

Scores and recordings of Christopher Sainsbury’s works are available from the Australian Music Centre, Wirripang, the National Library Australia, as well as his website, www.sainsburymusic.com







Updated:  15 June 2018/Responsible Officer:  Head of School/Page Contact:  CASS Marketing & Communications