Staff Spotlight: Dr Ben Gaunt

Dr Ben Gaunt has recently been nominated for an Ivors Composer Award 2021.

By Lauren Bickerdike


Dr Ben Gaunt is a principal lecturer on our BA (Hons) Music (Classical) programme, MA Music programme and at Leeds Junior Conservatoire.

Ben has recently been nominated for a prestigious Ivors Composer Award 2021 for his solo composition 'Fading Spellsphere' for piano. We spoke to Ben about his musical beginnings, career journey and time working at Leeds Conservatoire.

Hi Ben! Where did your musical interests begin?

My parents took me to an electric organ class when I was young, and I immediately loved it. They then bought me a very simple programme called Noteworthy Composer, and I taught myself how to write music. It was a lot of fun!

Ben Gaunt, Senior Lecturer in Classical Music, Music Production, Postgraduate Studies

What has been the most important thing you've learned throughout your career?

Being a composer is all about having the freedom to do what you want. Write without fear. Don't worry about other composers, audiences, critics etc. Nothing else exists except for the piece of music you're creating right now.

You have been asked to write for some incredible orchestras and ensembles, such as the London Sinfonietta, Icarus Ensemble and the London Symphony Orchestra. What have been the highlights of your career so far?

I think a recent piece for Fenella Humphreys (violin) and an upcoming string sextet for Psappha Ensemble are definitely highlights. Also, it's been lovely to see some of my previous composition students (Sam Longbottom, Holly Chapman, Tanguy Pocquet Du Haut-Jusse) do so well.

You have been nominated for an Ivors Composer Award 2021! Congratulations on this incredible achievement. Can you tell us how you felt when you found out that you had been nominated and what this means for your career?


Thanks! I'm so excited. I was nominated for a British Composer Award a few years earlier, and it definitely raised my profile, made it easier to approach players/ensembles to collaborate, and generally had a positive effect. I think the Ivors will be just as impactful, if not more so. And this time, I actually stand a small chance of winning! (For my British Composer Award nomination, it was pretty obvious that I was going to lose to a ground-breaking opera by Philip Venables, but this time anything could happen.)

You have been nominated for your solo composition 'Fading Spellsphere' for piano. Can you tell us more about this piece and the inspiration behind it?

From early 2019 to mid-2020, I wrote a series of pieces called Spellspheres. These pieces featured lots of superimposed patterns; patterns of pitches, patterns of rhythms, patterns of tempi/dynamics/textures/timbres/events etc. Basically, I turned everything into a pattern - it was a lot of fun to do, and Fading Spellsphere (written as part of the Psappha Composing for Piano scheme) was probably the best one I composed. It explores crossfading (where some material decreases in volume whilst other material increases). The piano is particularly well-suited to this, as it can crossfade very complex/fast material.

Listen to 'Fading Spellesphere' by Ben Gaunt:

What is your favourite thing about lecturing at Leeds Conservatoire?

I absolutely love teaching at Leeds Conservatoire. I know it's probably a bit cheesy to say, but the best thing about it are the students. It is so exciting to see students develop their abilities and transform into confident, mature music-makers. More broadly, I also really like seeing progress in the quality of the modules/courses. In particular, I think we've really worked hard on making the Classical Composition programme as good as it can be - our current students and recent graduates are really fantastic, and I look forward to seeing how their careers progress in the years to come.

You can find out more about Ben and his work on by heading to his website, reading his staff profile, or by following him on Twitter and Facebook.

Discover more about studying Classical Music at Leeds Conservatoire. 

By Lauren Bickerdike

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