Department of Music

Academic profiles

Find out more about some of the staff in the Department of Music. If you'd like to meet some of us in person, sign up to our open day

Disclaimer: The modules we offer are inspired by the research interests of our staff and as a result may change for reasons of, for example, research developments or legislative changes. The modules mentioned on this page are examples of typical modules that we offer but are not guaranteed to be available in any particular year.

 

Meet... Hannah Robbins 

Assistant Professor in Popular Music                                Director of Black Studies

Hannah Marie Robbins - photo

What's the first piece of music you fell in love with?

I grew up in what’s called the “Disney Renaissance”: The Little Mermaid to Mulan sort of time. They were almost all the films you could see at the cinema when I was small. According to my mum, I learned “Hakuna Matata” from hearing it in the cinema when I was very small and spent ages picking out the tune on the piano we had until it was right. I don’t remember that, so I am going to say “Who Do You Think You Are?” by the Spice Girls who were the first pop group I really remember or the Destiny’s Child album The Writing’s on the Wall, which was the first CD I ever owned. I still know all the words to all the tracks.

See Hannah's website here

Read more from Hannah...

If you could attend any musical concert in history, which would it be and why?

If I could attend any musical concert in history, it’d probably be Beyoncé at Coachella if I’m honest with myself. That or, in 1975, Stevie Wonder headlined a concert supported by Bob Marley and the Wailers in Kingston in Jamaica. At the end, Stevie Wonder and Bob Marley played “I Shot the Sheriff” and “Superstition” together. I can’t really think of a more amazing music collaboration. 

What is your favourite module to teach and why?

My favourite module to teach is a course called Race in Music Theatre. We look at lots of musicals, operas, ballets, and film while also learning about critical race theory, ideas about racial and cultural representation, and how we write music and stories to communicate identity. This module is great because it is discussion led so students can direct what we cover. While we study this course, we think about ourselves – our positionalities – and the meanings different people find in stories told with music. Content ranges from looking at two themes “intersectionality” and “representation” in fan culture about Hamilton to looking at original draft song lyrics that show uncomfortable truths about early versions of songs we know in musicals today. Every year, students reach out to me to show me how it has affected the way they watch and enjoy films and musicals. For example, a group of flatmates were working through the Marvel films and started to unpack how the different characters and places the films include were shown!

What inspired you to teach your subject?

When I started my Music degree, I didn’t really know you could study musicals or think about how culture and society are shown in the things we enjoy watching and listening to. I was also aware that, as a mixed-race person, there weren’t many people like me around. The music I grew up with and enjoy listening to was not part of the music history I was studying. So when I did a PhD, I decided to move away from opera (which I also like) and focus on musicals. There’s something fun and rewarding about teaching with students who are either completely new to musicals or are super fans. The class dynamics involve lots of laughing in among some very serious topics. 

 

Meet... Xenia Pestova Bennett

Associate Professor in Music                                            Pianist and Composer

Xenia-Pestova-ROLI

If you could attend any musical concert in history, which would it be and why? 

I am very happy and excited to be right here, right now, in the present. As a professional performing pianist, I live every concert I give very deeply, and I am grateful for every experience. Music is a wonderful gift. Amazing concerts take place all the time with innovative and exciting new works being performed as well as radical reinterpretations of the masterworks of the past. We just have to be open. Let’s live it up! Nottingham Forum for Artistic Research presents some great concerts every year. Perhaps we will see you there! 

 

See Xenia's website here

Read more from Xenia...

Who's your favourite composer/musician and why?

There are just so many, where do I start? I love a range of music from the great masters of the past to contemporary works by living composers. I often collaborate with composers on premieres. It’s so exciting to bring music to life – as performers, we have the great privilege to be able to do this.

What is your favourite module to teach and why?

At the moment, I would have to say Music and Health (although I love all my modules!). This is a very important topic, and one that is still often ignored. As musicians, we really need to learn to take care of ourselves, and in this class we explore issues such as injury prevention and performance anxiety. In addition to my career as a concert pianist, I am a fully trained and certified yoga teacher and breathwork coach. I am delighted to be able to bring these skills to Nottingham and incorporate them into my teaching.

What inspired you to teach your subject?

I was really fortunate to study with some amazing and inspiring teachers: in Russia, New Zealand, UK, Holland, France, Canada… So now I feel it’s my turn to share my knowledge and experience with the younger generation!

 
 

 

Meet... Nick Baragwanath

Professor

Nicholas-Baragwanth

Is classical music elitist? 

When George Gershwin asked the ultra-modernist composer Alban Berg how he could like jazz when he wrote such complex atonal pieces, Berg replied: ‘music is music’. There is no such thing as classical music, just music you like and music you don’t.

Read more from Nick...

If you could attend any musical concert in history, which would it be and why?

Woodstock 1969, obviously, but I’d also like to have heard Arcangelo Corelli play. He was the greatest violinist of the early 1700s and used to go completely wild on stage. An English tourist who saw him play in 1709 said that “his Eyes will sometimes turn as red as fire: his Countenance will be distorted, his Eye-Balls roll as in an Agony, and he gives in so much to what he is doing that he doth not look like the same Man.”

What's the first piece of music you fell in love with?

Dvorak’s New World Symphony. Although I don’t often admit it nowadays. Oddly enough, I was also into Blondie at the same time.

What is your favourite module to teach and why?

Eighteenth-century music. We get to make music from scratch, by copying the methods of choirboy apprentices, lady dilettantes, and castrated virtuoso singers. Students learn that it is much easier to compose than you think!

What inspired you to teach your subject?

I once heard the Head of Music at my school boast that he had reached the ‘top’ of the subject and could survey it entire, from above. I thought this was rubbish and wanted to prove it.

 
 

 

Department of Music

The University of Nottingham
Lakeside Arts Centre
University Park
Nottingham, NG7 2RD

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