Associate Professor Robert Burke

PhD (perf), MMus (perf), BMus, AmusA, Cert in Tertiary Education

Robert Burke is Co-ordinator of Jazz and Popular Studies at Monash University. (He was head of the Sir Zelman Cowen School of Music from 2011 – 2014). An improvising musician, Rob has performed and composed on over 300 CDs and has toured extensively throughout Australia, Asia, Europe, and USA over the last 30 years. He has also released 12 CDs under his own name whilst focussing on understanding and articulating what happens in the moment of improvisation from the perspective of practice-based artistic research.  Rob plays in a context of mostly free improvisation (jazz sensibility), investigating ego, agency, indeterminacy and choice having collaborated/recorded with George Lewis, Dave Douglas, Enrico Rava, Hermeto Pascoal, Kenny Werner, Mark Helias, Ben Monder, Tom Rainey, Nasheet Waites, George Garzone, Paul Grabowsky, Tony Gould, Johannes Weidenmueller, Debasis Chackroborty, Paulo Angeli, Tony Malaby and Richie Barshay.

Robert Burke has also enjoyed a diverse and wide-ranging career as a performer, composer and educator in music. Although classically trained on the clarinet and saxophones, his main focus as a performer has been in jazz and popular music, including eight years performing and composing with Kate Ceberano (including a top-ten Australian hit) and fifteen years with ARIA award-winning band The Black Sorrows. Rob has performed, recorded with and contributed compositions with pop  and jazz artists such as John Farnham, Ice House, Real Life, Vika and Linda Bull, to contemporary jazz projects with leading artists including Tony Gould, Tony Floyd, Doug De Vries, Slava Gregorian, Geoff Hughes, Nick Haywood, Stephen Magnusson, Don Burrows, Tony Floyd and Mike Nock.

Rob initiated (2015) and is currently president of the Australasian Jazz and Improvisation Research Network (AJIRN)

Rob had convened 3 conferences: AJIRN 2016 (Uni Melb, Monash), 2017 (Monash) and Perspecives in Artistic Research in Music  (Monash). In 2018 he will convene the (3rd) AJIRN conference at the MIJF

  • Performance – Saxophone – Flute – Clarinet (CD Recordings and Performances)
  • Practice-Based Artistic Research in Music Performance (Jazz and improvisation)
  • Jazz and World Music Pedagogy (Oxford Handbook of Education)

Rob’s research focus is in Practice-Based Artistic Research. A practising musician, Rob is currently co-writing a book on Practice-Based Artistic Research (Idea Chasing: Ego and  Agency in Free Jazz)  with Dr Andrys Onsman. Rob initiatedAJIRN (Australasian Jazz and Improvisation Research Network) and convened its first conference in November 2016 and in 2017 in association with the Melbourne International Jazz Festival. Rob is  also a member of the MSA steering group for ARiM (Artistic Research in Music) also convening  2-day symposium in Artistic research in Music in 2015,


Burke, R & Onsman, A.  (Editors) Perspectives of Artistic Research in Music. Lexington Books/Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. Jan 2017

Burke, R & Onsman, A,  Idea Chasing: Ego and  Agency in Free Jazz  –  2018

Book Chapters

Burke, R.L., Evans, S.J.N., 2012, Pathways to learning and teaching indigenous and world music ensembles, in The Oxford Handbook of Music Education, Volume 1, eds Gary E McPherson and Graham F Welch, Oxford University Press, New York, USA, pp. 890-906.

Burke, R & Onsman, A.  Perspectives of Artistic Research in Music. Lexington Books/Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. Chapter 1. January 2017

Onsman, A & Burke, R  .  Perspectives of Artistic Research in Music. Lexington Books/Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. Chapter 15. January 2017

Conference Proceedings: Recent

Burke, R (2017)  Mapping Agency – Sydney Conservatorium – Conference – Artistic Research

Burke, R (2017)  Mapping Agency in an improvisational setting – Australasian Jazz and Improvisation Network Conference (Melbourne – MIJF)

Burke, R (2016) Discordant methodologies: prioritising performance in artistic research in music – Conference in Artistic Research Prague

Burke, R (2016) Exceeding My Reach: ‘Inside’ the Unfamiliar. Rhythm Changes Birmingham UK

Burke, R (2015).  DDCA – (Directors and Deans of Creative Arts) Conference – Sept 2015

Burke, R. & Onsman, (2015) A ‘The use of artistic research in music to develop expertise and creativity (in improvised jazz performance)

Burke, R. (2014) Analysis and observations of pre‐learnt and idiosyncratic elements in improvisation: a reflective study in jazz performance (IAML – International Association of Libraries, Archives and Documentation centres Australia)

Burke, R. (2014) Analysis and observations of pre‐learnt and idiosyncratic elements in improvisation: a reflective study in jazz performance. Rhythm Changes-Jazz beyond Borders -Amsterdam

Burke, R (2004) SIMS

Cd Releases

CD – releases: Click HERE

Rob, a Jazzhead recording artist, has released 12 Cds under his own name or leader of the ensembles. (over 200) Recently, Rob released a duet album with Tony Gould titled Here (Jazzhead 2009), the third in a series of such collaborations and a quartet album Live at Bennetts Lane – Jazzhead (2011). In 2014 recorded a CD in New York titled Do True with pianist Kenny Werner, bassist – Johannes Weidenmueller and drummer – Richie Barshay (USA). In 2015 (again recorded in New York)  The Power of the Idea was recorded and released with bassist Mark Helias, drummer – Nasheet Waits (USA), pianist – Paul Grabowsky, trumpeter Paul Williamson and trombonist Jordan Murray.

Recent recordings include(for CD release):

1.  George Lewis, Mark Helias and Paul Grabowsky recorded in July  2015 – New York (released 2017 – FMR records – UK)

2.  Debasis Chakroborty (India), Sam Evans and Steve Magnusson  (June 2015) – Melbourne (released 2017 – Jazzhead)

3. Mark Helias, Nasheet Waits, Paul Grabowsky, Jordan Murray, Paul Williamson (September) – Melbourne (release 2018)

4. Ray Anderson (USA), Paul Grabowsky, Jordan Murray, Paul Williamson, Eric McPherson (USA), Dan Peck (USA) recorded in July  2015 – New York (release 2018).

5. Ben Monder (USA), Tom Rainey (USA) Ben Grayson – Electronic editing (AUS) recording in July  2016 – New York (to be released 2017)

6. Rob Burke and Tony Goud Quartet – with Nick Haywood and Tony FloyRecordings2014 – 2016. (to be released 2018 – Jazzhead)

7. Gravity – with Paul Grabowsky (recorded 2017 – Tokyo) for release June 2018 at the MIJF


Rob has had extensive teaching experience giving workshops locally and internationally. In 2000 Rob was invited to conduct improvisation classes at Monash University’s School of Music. Rob subsequently developed an autonomous jazz course for the School of Music and in 2003, was appointed Coordinator of Jazz and Popular Studies. This jazz course is now regarded as the leading course for jazz education in Australia, offering both comprehensive practical training and strong academic qualifications, and providing students with exceptional learning and performance opportunities in Australia, Italy and the United States (New York).

Rob Burke has developed instigated and developed curriculum and pathways for:

  • Jazz and Popular Studies – Curriculum (2002 – present)
  • International Units in Prato Italy and New York (USA) (2007 – present)
  • An integrated Aural Training (Classical and Jazz and Popular Music 2006 – 2010)
  • Creative Music Technology (2014 – present)
  • Popular Voice (2016 – present)

Since 2007 Rob has focused on creating cultural and educational ties between Monash University in Australia and Brazil, by creating links with Unicamp University in Campinas and consulting with Brazilian funding agencies and other universities.

Rob has been artist-in-residence at Universidade Estadual de Campinas – Unicamp (Campinas), Musica de Scuola de Brasilia (Brasilia), Souza de Lima School of Music (Sao Paulo), New York University, Lulea University of Technology (Sweden), Huddersfield University (UK) etc.

Monash Sessions

Introduced and produced of recordings with iconic Australian and International artists, students and staff:

Released through Jazzhead records:





Tony Gould and Mike Nock: The Monash Sessions

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Kenny Werner: The Monash Sessions

Vince Jones: The Monash Sessions



Coordinator of Jazz studies  at Monash University 2002 – current

Head of The Sir Zelman Cowen School of Music 2011 – 2014

Deputy Head of The Sir Zelman Cowen School of Music 2009 – 2010

Rob has also built links with New York University (USA)(2010 present) – (both educational and research), Universidade Estadual de Campinas – Unicamp and Lulea University of Technology (Sweden).

Rob is also leading efforts to build philanthropic support for the School of Music at Monash University, with a view to expanding the facilities, scholarships and resources available to students.

During his 4 years of leadership for the School of Music, Rob oversaw a $1,000,000 (2011) deficit to profit in 2013 and 2014.

Rob Burke has developed curriculum and pathways for:

  • Jazz and Popular Studies – Curriculum (2002 – present)
  • International Units in Prato Italy and New York (USA) (2007 – present)
  • An integrated Aural Training (Classical and Jazz and Popular Music 2006 – 2010)
  • Creative Music Technology (2014 – present)
  • Popular Voice (2016 – present)

Rob is currently a reviewer for TEQSA having assessed many music courses within Australia.

“What makes this disc work so well is the sense of restraint or calm at the centre with well-selected eruptions which never reach an extreme.” Downtown Music Gallery NY 2017

 “This is a groundbreaking collection — complex and adventurous” 4.5* J. McBeath – The Australian 2015

“A stunning jazz album that identifies Melbourne as a significant contributor of talent and inventive and pioneering jazz on the world stage. Beautifully recorded and presented. … This record is a collaboration of some of the most influential protagonists on the Melbourne scene and is undoubtedly a masterpiece.” – Eddie Naran – Jazz on the Street.

“An exciting tour of Melbourne. There are moments where you will get chills down your back’ 4.5* – The Age Green Guide. Melbourne, 28th July 2005.

‘There is a romance in the tracks that comes from an exploration of a stage of jazz which has pleasured many for a long time. While gentle… it is quietly persuasive of all the life, clarity and brilliance to be found in mainstream jazz. Emotional and relaxing.’ Canberra Times, Canberra, 18 Aug 2003.

“Variations of tempo and mood and a seemingly telepathic ability to complement each other make for stimulating listening.” MAG, Music Australia Guide, April 2010

“…carefully crafted explorations into the melodic beauty, space, timbre and dynamic variations of reeds and piano by players whose long friendship is evident.” Roger Mitchell, SHS 4-6 2010

“…an empathetic, melodic and tender album that reflects the saxophonist’s and pianist’s longtime playing partnership.” ABC Radio National, The Daily Planet, March 2010

“…to die for.” Leon Gettler, The Age Green Guide, 4-29 2010

Robert Burke on JazzHead:

Rob is sponsored by R S Berkeley

Grants, Commissions and Prizes

  • 2016 Australia Cultural Grant (DFAT)
  • 2016 Australia-Japan Foundation Grant (DFAT)
  • 2016 Stonnington Arts Grant
  • 2016 The Age – Music awards (nomination) Nock and Gould (Monash Sessions)
  • 2015 Australia Council for the Arts Grant
  • 2015 Bell Award – MAE – Monash Art Ensemble
  • 2014 ARIA nomination – Vince Jones (producer)
  • 2014 Victoria Arts Grant
  • 2014 Bell Award – MAE – Monash Art Ensemble
  • 2013 Australia Council for the Arts Grant
  • 2011 COALAR Grant (Brazil)
  • 2009 COALAR Grant (Brazil)
  • 2008 Nominated for best composition APRA
  • 2006 Nominated for best composition MADC
  • 2004 Australia Council for the Arts Grant
  • 2001 Australia Council for the Arts Grant
  • 1999 Victoria Arts Grant
  • 1998 Aria award – Black Sorrows
  • 1988 Aria Award – Kate Ceberano

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