Robert Burke

Assoc Professor

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Linkage application: Melbourne International Jazz Festival
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Personal profile


Robert Burke is Associate Professor in Jazz and Improvisation at the Sir Zelman Cowen School of Music at Monash University of Melbourne. He holds a BMus and MA from the Victorian College of the Arts (University of Melbourne), and a PhD at Monash University. Robert was the initiator and convenor of jazz and improvisation from 2002 - 2019 at Monash University, founder and currently president  and (AJIRN) Australasian Jazz and Improvisational Research Network (2015 to current) and has held the position of Head of the Sir Zelman Cowen School of Music from 2011 – 2014.

Robert's practice and research interests include composition, improvisation, human-machine relationships and gender studies in music (PCI on ARC grant 2020 -2023). At the heart of Rob’s research lies the question: what happens when we improvise? His main research collaborator is Associate Professor Andrys Onsman.


 More recently Rob has collaborated with a team of researchers that are exploring online music-making as social connection in relation to wellbeing, agency, and split-second decision making in improvisation. The team consists of Raymond MacDonald at the Uni of Edinburgh (Professor - music psychologist and saxophonist), Tia DeNora from Exeter University (Professor - Sociology of Music), Maria Sappo Donahue (pianist, improvising artist based in Huddersfield Univeristy) and artist/film maker Ross Birell (Professor - Glasgow School of Art). Rob also leads an ARC grant that is investigating gender diversity in Jazz and Improvisation. The team includes: Professor Margaret Barrett, Dr Clare Hall, Professor Cat Hope, Dr Louise Devenish and Dr. Nicole Canham. 


An internationally acclaimed improvising performer and composer, Robert has released 15 CD’s under his own name and has composed and performed on a further 300 CD’s.  His sensitive and balanced perspective has allowed Rob to traverse many different styles and this has, in part, been expressed as collaborative performances with international leaders in classical, jazz and experimental music. His embrace of many genres of music and the clear expression of his diversity in his role as an educator, researcher and performer, has given rise to a vibrant dialect that resonates through his students and also his performances. 

Robert has also embarked on numerous musical collaborations within Australia and overseas and has established research, educational and artistic ties with institutions, researchers and musicians in Italy, USA (New York), Japan and Brazil. Collaborators include: Professor George Lewis, Columbia University – NYC; Professor Raymond MacDonald, Edinburgh University; Dave Douglas, USA; Enrico Rava, ITL; Hermeto Pascoal, Brazil; Kenny Werner, USA; Mark Helias, USA; Ben Monder, USA; Tom Rainey, USA; Tony Malaby, USA; Nasheet Waites, USA; George Garzone, USA; Paul Grabowsky; Tony Gould; Debasis Chakraborty, India; and Paulo Angeli (Italy).

Recent publications include a co-written book: Onsman, A. & Burke, R. Experimentation in Improvised Jazz: Idea Chasing (Routledge 2019), editor for 'Perspectives of Artistic Research in Music (Lexington 2017) and a co-written chapter in The Oxford Handbook of Music Education, Vol 1, (2012, 2019)

'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.

'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.

Robert Burke is both an FMR-UK and JazzHead recording artist.

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 5 - Gender Equality

Education/Academic qualification


Award Date: 1 Jan 2013

External positions

President, Australasian Jazz and Improvisation Research Network

1 Jun 2016 → …

Board Member, Melbourne Jazz Co-operative

1 Jan 2014 → …

Research area keywords

  • Jazz, Improvisation, Artistic Research, Music Performance, Music Composition, Music Pedagogy, Music Analysis, Reflective Practice, Cyborg Jazz, Experimentation in improvised Music

Collaborations and top research areas from the last five years

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