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Staff Profile

Dr Murphy McCaleb

Learning and Teaching Lead: The School of the Arts, Course Leader for Music, Course Leader for MA Musical Leadership

Murphy McCaleb

I am the course leader for Music and teach across all of the BA (Hons) Music courses, provide academic tutoring, and advise postgraduate research students. In addition, I run a wide range of university ensembles, which have included numerous jazz and classical ensembles, folk and ceilidh bands, and experimental and progressive rock bands. I enjoy producing large-scale performances, such as our four-star run of music performances at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2019.

I am a bass trombonist and pianist who plays a wide range of music including classical, jazz, rock, pop, electronic, and experimental. In my music-making, teaching, and research, I am particularly interested in exploring how performers create shared experiences within ensembles. Likewise, I am interested in exploring the power dynamics between lecturers and students in university music education.


I am module leader for modules across all three undergraduate years, including Ensembles and Teamwork, Professional Contexts and Practice, Ensemble Strategies, Ensembles and Leadership, and Enterprise and Employability. In addition, I supervise dissertations and collaborative projects for third year students. I have acted as academic tutor for all three cohorts of students, and provide academic and practical musical support. I am the course leader for MA Musical Leadership, and have designed and teach on the postgraduate module Calibrating Ensemble Leadership.

I teach on the following courses:

BA (Hons) Music
BA (Hons) Music: Performance
BA (Hons) Music: Composition
BA (Hons) Music: Community Music
BA (Hons) Musical Theatre
MA Musical Leadership

Research Interests and Projects

My research has two key strands: First, I am interested in how musicians collaborate and interact in ensembles. This links related interests in teaching music in higher education, the effect of genre on music-making practices, creative compositional strategies to explore performers’ relationships, performative musical knowledge, and music performance in general. Second, I am interested in exploring power imbalances relating to ensemble music. This could be in the form of cultural hierarchies relating to chamber music, the power balance between conductor and ensemble members, and ethical considerations in ensemble education.

Publications and qualifications


Embodied Knowledge in Ensemble Performance (2014) Farnham: Ashgate Publishing.

Book Chapters:

‘Chambering Music’ (2022) in Dogantan-Dack, Mine (ed.) The Chamber Musician in the Twenty-First Century. MDPI Books.

‘Teaching Through Ensemble Performance’ (2021) in Timmers, R, Bailes, F, and Daffern, H (eds) Together in Music: Participation, Co-Ordination, and Creativity in Ensembles. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Online Publications (not peer-reviewed):

‘Coronavirus: for performers in lockdown, online is becoming the new live’ The Conversation (March 2020),


PCAP, York St John University

PhD, Royal Birmingham Conservatoire: Thesis title Embodied Knowledge: The Case of Ensemble Performance

MMus, University of Michigan: Chamber Music

MMus, University of Michigan: Performance (Trombone)

BMus, University of Alaska Fairbanks: Music: Performance


Conference Presentations (peer-reviewed):

‘Ethos, Technique, and Performance: Rethinking Ensembles in Higher Education’ delivered at the Performance Studies Network Fifth International Conference, Norwegian Academy of Music, Oslo, Norway, 5–8 July 2018.

‘Teaching Through Ensemble Performance’ delivered at the conference Together in Music: Expression, Performance and Communication in Ensembles, York, UK, 12–14 April 2018.

‘Playing Together: developing ensembles through musical play’ poster delivered at the International Society for Music Education 32nd World Conference, Glasgow, UK, 24–29 July 2016.

‘Playing Together: developing ensembles through musical play’ delivered at the Performance Studies Network Fourth International Conference, Bath Spa University, UK, 14–17 July 2016.

Heart of Tones and the Dilation of Time’ delivered at the Royal Musical Association Study Day ‘Keeping Time? New Approaches to Temporality’, University of York, UK, 13 June 2016.

‘Thinking in Performance’ delivered at the Tacit or Loud Symposium and Festival for Artistic Research, Malmö, Sweden, 28 November–3 December 2014.

‘Developing Ensemble Musicians’ delivered at the seventh international Orpheus Research Centre in Music (ORCiM) seminar ‘From Output to Impact: The integration of artistic research results into musical training’, Orpheus Institute, Ghent, Belgium, 19–20 November 2014.

‘Inter-reaction as creative process in improvisation’ delivered at the Performance Studies Network Third International Conference, University of Cambridge, 17–20 July 2014.

‘Embodied Knowledge in Popular Music Ensembles’ delivered at the International Festival for Artistic Innovation, Leeds College of Music, 10–14 March 2014.

‘Embodied Knowledge: The Case of Ensemble Performance’ delivered at the Performance Studies Network Second International Conference, University of Cambridge, 4–7 April 2013.

‘Intention and Action in Musical Performance’ delivered at the Royal Musical Association Study Day: Challenging Musical Ontologies, University of Nottingham, 23 November 2012.

‘Research Through Music: Reflecting on Practice-as-Research Within a Conservatoire Doctoral Programme’ delivered at the Association Européenne des Conservatoires sponsored European Platform for Artistic Research in Music, Conservatorio di Santa Cecilia, Rome, 10–12 May 2012.

‘Making Sense: Sensory input’s effect on live electronic music performers’ delivered with Tychonas Michailidis at the Conference on Interdisciplinary Musicology (CIM11), Glasgow Caledonian University, 30 August–3 September 2011.

‘Communication or Interaction? Applied environmental knowledge in ensemble performance’ delivered at the Performance Studies Network First International Conference, University of Cambridge, 14–17 July 2011.

‘Embodied knowledge in ensemble performance: the case of informed observation’ delivered at Performa’11 Conference on Performance Studies, University of Aveiro, Portugal, 19–21 May 2011.

Professional activities

In addition to my work at the university, I engage in a range of music-making around Yorkshire. This primarily takes the form of gigging with the New York Brass Band and creating experimental and contemporary music for the Late Music concert series in York.

Notable live performances:

Jesus’ Blood Never Failed Me Yet. Edinburgh Fringe (Edinburgh, UK). York St John University Music, August 23–25 2019.

Glastonbury Festival of Contemporary Performing Arts (Pilton, UK). New York Brass Band, June 26–July 1 2019.

Wilderness Festival (Oxfordshire, UK). New York Brass Band, August 3–6 2017.

Glastonbury Festival of Contemporary Performing Arts (Pilton, UK). New York Brass Band, June 21–26 2017.

Lumen. Illuminating York (York, UK). York St John University Music, October 25–29 2016.

Batumi Heat Festival (Batumi, Georgia). New York Brass Band, June 5–9 2016.

A Celebration of Women in Music. UNESCO World Forum on Music (Los Angeles, USA). Borealis Brass, October 3 2005.


From the Ground. Flora Greysteel. Independent, 2019.

Reality is My Plaything. Phi Yaan-Zek. Geomagnetic Records, 2018.

Mythical and Angry. Murphy McCaleb and Andy Edwards. Independent, 2015.

Tangents. Murphy McCaleb with Andy Edwards and Steve Lawson. Independent, 2014.

IAASM (Green EP). I Am A Scary Monster. Independent, 2014.

Ed Bennett: My Broken Machines. Decibel. NMC Recordings, 2011.

Evan Chambers: The Old Burying Ground. The University of Michigan Symphony Orchestra. Naxos, 2010.

Killarney Broadcast. Independent, 2009.

Raise the Roof. The University of Michigan Symphony Band. Equilibrium Records, 2009.

Roman Holidays. Borealis Brass. Independent, 2009.

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