Meet our Head of Composition, Professor Joe Cutler

Professor Joe Cutler is Head of the Composition Department at Royal Birmingham Conservatoire.

Take a look at his career highlights so far and his favourite thing about working for Royal Birmingham Conservatoire.

Joe Cutler primary

What is your ethos for the department?

Open-minded, nurturing, collaborative, daring, community, buzz!

What do you look for in musicians auditioning to join your department?

We're looking for composers who are open, keen to work with others, hungry to widen their compositional experience and knowledge, and maybe a little left-field in their interests. They don't need to be the finished article, but most importantly they should be composers with spark and imagination, who want to go on a creative journey within the community of our department.

Do you perform outside of teaching? If so, could you give details.

All our tutors combine teaching with being professional composers. I'm just about to start a saxophone concerto for the BBC Concert Orchestra with the amazing saxophonist Trish Clowes as soloist.

What are your main responsibilities as Head of Department?

Overseeing the overall life and activities of the department. That includes planning a vast range of projects and events. We have a very strong team of staff who all have clear roles. Sean Clancy is BMus composition co-ordinator, Ed Bennett is postgraduate composition co-ordinator. Michael Wolters and myself have more of a global view and we're also involved in research and teaching PhD students. In addition we have a highly dedicated team of tutors whose expertise are extremely broad, covering everything from contemporary classical to song writing, electronic music to experimental approaches, film music to folk and jazz - and everything in between!

What have been your career highlights so far?

My three albums are certainly highlights (the latest has just been released on NMC Recordings), as are my two British Composer Awards. A big thrill was writing a piece for the Conservatoire's symphony orchestra that opened the Royal Gala concert earlier this year, officially opening the new Conservatoire concert hall. Composition has taken me all over the world from Japan to USA, and South Africa to the north of Sweden!

How did you come to your current role, what have you done before Royal Birmingham Conservatoire (RBC)?

Following studies in the UK and later in Warsaw, I was a freelance composer and began teaching at the Conservatoire in 2000 as a Visiting Tutor. I've been Head of Composition here since 2004.

How would you describe your team in the department?

Brilliant! They're all wonderful composers, teachers and people. We support one another, and all feel very fortunate to be able to be part of an inspiring community of tutors and students. 

What is your favourite thing about working at RBC?

It has to be the people, from staff to students.

What do you think sets RBC apart from other conservatoires?

I think it's down-to-earth, innovative, and friendly whilst also being an outstanding institution filled with remarkable musicians. 

What do you think are the greatest challenges facing new music students?

Finding your space as a musician, but that challenge is also extremely exciting, and that's what the course is for.

What can prospective students look forward to the most when they join your department/RBC?

Alongside your composition lessons, you can look forward to joining a wonderful community who work together to make remarkable things happen! 

Find out more about our Composition Department