Dr Phillip Cooke, Depute Head of Music and Lecturer in Composition tells us about his role in the music department, his current research and his passion for the variety his role brings.

Tell us about your role at the University

I’m the Depute Head of Music, which basically means I’m the ‘number two’ in the department behind our Head of Music, Dr Eddie Campbell.  Music is a subject that is very much ‘front-facing’, having a broad mixture of concerts, recitals, seminars and music lessons to arrange coordinating with a wide range of external organisations and individuals, as well as curriculum and research. I oversee the undergraduate curriculum which involves having oversight of all courses and student progression. I’m also a lecturer in composition which I teach across the levels from first year to PhD. That being said, I’m currently on research leave, so I don’t do any of those things at the moment!

How do you usually start your day?
Well, I have a young family so the day usually begins before it should…bleary-eyed and busy, trying to get children to school and nursery. When I’m not on research leave, I get into the office by 09.30 (I live 20 miles north of the city), trying to deal with emails and other issues before the day begins in earnest. And coffee.
What brought you to the University of Aberdeen?

I had recently finished a post-doc at the University of Oxford and was dividing my time between a college lectureship and a job at Eton College – it was fun, but the lack of job security was always worrying. When the job at Aberdeen was advertised, I jumped at the opportunity to come and work in a thriving and growing department. The irony was, we’d just bought a house in Oxfordshire. We had always put off buying just in case ‘a job came up in Aberdeen’ – we always chose Aberdeen as it was as far from where we were in the UK as possible, we didn’t expect it would happen…

What’s your favourite thing about your job?
I like the mix of teaching and research – interaction and solitude – it works quite nicely, I couldn’t do one or the other by itself. I enjoy working with students, helping them to realise their ideas and bring their music to fruition – I learn just as much from them as I hope they learn from me. Whatever the climate that HE institutions are currently in, it’s a privilege to be able to work in the discipline I love, and I try to never forget it.
What are your work priorities at the moment?
Well, as I’m on research leave, they have swung entirely towards my research – I’m currently writing the first academic monograph on the celebrated Scottish composer Sir James MacMillan of which I hope to write the lion’s share this year. I’m also writing three other papers, and will hopefully find some time to write some music as well…
How do you like to relax outside work?
I like spending time with my family and visiting different places in Scotland. I also enjoy fell-walking (coming from the Lake District), I just wish the Cairngorms were a little closer to Aberdeen…