Currently an Adjunct Professor of Charles Sturt University, Susan West has over forty years’ experience as a performer, educator, composer and arranger. Her work in developing pre-tertiary music programs and post-graduate teacher-training is at the cutting edge of music education with wide-ranging influences from traditional music philosophies, both ancient and modern, to holistic and therapeutic uses of music.
Susan trained in music performance at the Melbourne University Conservatorium of Music and the Victorian College of the Arts and obtained a post-graduate degree in music education from the Kodaly Institute of Hungary. She played Principal Piccolo with the Western Australian Symphony Orchestra in 1980 and then Associate Principal and Principal Flute with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra from 1981-1985. During this time she was also a member of the Australian Wind Virtuosi, touring nationally and internationally.
She was invited to the Canberra School of Music in 1984 to help establish the Music Education Program. Recognising a need for different and more successful forms of music education, she continued her studies, first at Charles Sturt University and later with the Institute for Music and Health, New York. She transformed the Music Education Program into the Music Engagement Program, from which emerged an entirely new philosophy for music making that embeds altruistic sharing at the centre of community and professional music making. Her social-therapeutic approach for which she coined the title ‘The Music Outreach Principle’ has affected the musical lives of tens of thousands of teachers, school children, secondary and tertiary students, musicians, seniors, and community members. She not only works as a music educator and researcher but composes and arranges for children, singing groups, instrumental groups, and for film.
The changes wrought in music education through her Music Outreach Principle formed the basis of Susan's Ph.D thesis, completed at the Australian National University in 2007. Susan has supervised another three Ph.D projects and a Masters' thesis, all of which explored different aspects of music education and community music.
Susan has been recognised through a variety of awards including a National Children’s Week Award, a National Women’s Day Award, a citation for Teaching Excellence from the Carrick Institute, a Community Outreach Award from the Music Council of Australia, an ANU Vice Chancellor’s Award for Community Engagement, and in 2016 was recognised as one of Australia’s 100 Women of Influence by the Australian Financial Review. As well as continuing her practice and research in Canberra, Susan is currently collaborating with researchers and practitioners in New Zealand trialling the application of outreach approaches in the South Island.
Dr Susan West working with children at an early childhood school.
Children participate in on of the Music Engagement Program's Big Gig outreach concerts.
Dr Susan West (left) at the Australian Financial Review's 100 Women of Influence Awards Night, 2016, accompanied by Dr Georgia Pike (right).