Conductor Biography

John Traill specialises in symphonic and contemporary repertoires, and is committed to making music accessible to all.  Director and Lecturer in Music at St. Anne’s College, University of Oxford, John has performed across the UK and overseas, with orchestras that include the London Mozart Players, the Oxford Philomusica, the Sofia New Symphony Orchestra, the Kharkov Philharmonic, the SCAR Philharmonic, and the Curitiba Symphony (Brazil). His work with leading contemporary music ensembles includes the London Sinfonietta, CHROMA, the New Music Players, London Contemporary Music Group, Sounds Underground, and the Moscow Studio for New Music. He has performed at many major venues, most recently conducting premieres at the Royal Albert Hall, Symphony Hall Birmingham, the Barbican, the Southbank Centre, and the Fergusson Centre (Virginia).  John is also founder and director of the Oxford Conducting Institute.

John is conductor of Ensemble ISIS (the University of Oxford new music group), the St Anne’s Camerata, the Oxfordshire County Youth Orchestra, and the City of Southampton Orchestra.

Early training with Rossen Milanov at the Mt. Vitosha International Conducting Institute, Bulgaria (1998/2000) culminated in winning major prizes at the Leeds Conductors Competition (2005), and the Vakhtang Jordania International Conducting Competition (2006).  At the same time, John studied composition with Robert Saxton at the University of Oxford, becoming the youngest recipient, in 2006, of a DPhil in this field.  He has been hailed for his strong interpretative instinct (Guardian), and his interests span compositional method through to the physicality of performance.

John regularly lectures on conducting at Oxford University, where he also tutors on the subjects that surround composition. His pioneering work in outreach, with the Oxfordshire Music Service’s Advanced Musicianship Programme, has developed a unique collaboration between the University of Oxford and the Oxfordshire County Music Service.  John’s recordings include Thomas Hyde’s Autumnal (Guild Records), and Scherzo Capriccioso (BBC Radio 3).  Previously, John has held lecturing positions at the University of Bristol, the University of Bangor (Head of Performance, 2015), and the Royal Welsh College of Music.


John’s compositions have been performed at major venues in UK, Europe, and the USA.  Specialising in both contemporary concert and music for education, his most recent projects include Arts Council funded commissions (Double Concerto for Vibraphone, Marimba, and Orchestra, and Concerto for Trumpet (doubling Flugelhorn) and Orchestra), and a new arrangement of Brahms' German Requiem, with Deborah Pritchard, for the Manchester Camerata at the Lichfield Festival.

His oratorios for education have bought national recognition, most notably Lightbobs for 600+ performers (March 2014: Symphony Hall, Birmingham), and Oxonia for massed childrens choir, symphony orchestra, brass band, and solo cello (2011-12: Royal Albert Hall, Symphony Hall Birmingham).

As resident composer for the Cornish American Song Institute, John has enjoyed a long association with tenor David Sadlier. Song sets therein include Four Cornish Songs (2016: Mary Ogilvie Theatre, Oxford), Phases (2014: Mary Ogilvie Theatre, Oxford), Three Songs for the Britten Centenary (2012: St. Martin in the Fields, London), Today for tenor and chamber orchestra (2010: Fergusson Centre, Virginia).

John has worked closely with trumpeter Simon Desbruslais, and in addition to his 2016 concerto, they premiered his Serenade for Trumpet and Orchestra, premiered in Sao Bento Monastery, Brasilia, April 2014.  Current projects include a new piano quintet for Greg Martin, to be premiered during a residency of John’s music at the University of Indianapolis in October 2014.

Highlights from John’s catalogue include and Equale for Horn and String Orchestra (2014: Oxford)Concerto for Ensemble (2010: Northwestern, Chicago), Five Piano Minatures (2008) and Dissolving Fragments for Violin and Piano (2009/11).

John is in demand as a visiting international artist.  He has delivered residencies at the University of Indianapolis (October 2014),  Christopher Newport University (2011) and Western Illinois University (2009), and had performances or lectures on his music at the University of Idaho, Northwestern University, Peabody Conservatoire, and at the University of Indiana.  Other notable overseas events include recital-lectures at Escola de Música e Belas Artes do Paraná, Federal University of Paraná, the University of Floreanapolis, the Federal University of Santa Catarina (Brazil), and the premier of The Short Voyage for large orchestra,  in the Thomaskirche (Leipzig, 2009).

In 2006 John became the youngest recipient of a DPhil in Composition from the University of Oxford, where he studied with Robert Saxton and Julian Johnson, subsequently teaching both composition and related subjects through his lectureships at St. Anne’s (where he is also Director of Music), St. Hilda’s, and St. Catherine’s colleges (Oxford).  He has previously held lecturing positions at the University of Bristol, the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, and the University of Bangor (Director of Performance, 2015).

Since 2003 John has been Musical Director of Ensemble ISIS, coordinating contemporary music workshops and recitals for the Faculty of Music at Oxford, highlights of which include residencies with the London Sinfonietta, Judith Weir, Nicola LeFanu, Sir Harrison Birtwistle, Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, Hans Abrahamsen, Elliot Schwartz, and Martin Bresnick.