Ellen Kirkwood is a trumpeter, composer, bandleader and educator based in Sydney. She completed a Bachelor of Music at the Sydney Conservatorium under many Australian Jazz greats including Mike Nock, Warwick Alder, Judy Bailey, Matt McMahon and Dale Barlow. In 2012 she won the Jann Rutherford Memorial Award for young women in Jazz, including a recording at ABC Studios, project funding, and performances in Sydney and Melbourne.
As a composer, Kirkwood is rapidly gaining recognition for her imaginative and daring style. Her debut album with sextet Captain Kirkwood, released in 2013 and named Theseus and the Minotaur, featured a 5 part narrated music-story suite which received glowing reviews and critical acclaim. She has since been commissioned to write several pieces for various ensembles, including works premiered at the 2015 and 2016 Sydney International Women's Jazz Festivals. Ellen's music has been performed by international jazz luminaries Lisa Parrott and Claire Daly (USA) and celebrated local artists including Sandy Evans, Paul Cutlan and Matthew Ottignon.
Ellen currently leads two successful groups of her own - Fat Yahoozah and The Mieville Project - which are vehicles for her compositions. She is also co-leader of the Sydney Women's Jazz Collective, and a member of several in-demand Sydney groups including Sirens Big Band, Mister Ott, On the Stoop and Pandora's Bag. Her performance highlights include playing with Ingrid and Christine Jensen at the 2016 Sydney International Women's Jazz Festival, Sirens Big Band's Trocadero event at Sydney Festival 2012 and 2013 and Woodford Folk Festival 2012/13's New Year's Eve Big Bang event alongside Greg Sheehan, Ben Walsh and other acclaimed Australian musicians.
In 2016 Ellen received an Australia Council of the Arts grant for a composition mentorship with highly esteemed Australian composer and pianist Barney McAll. During the mentorship she wrote a 55 minute suite for Sirens Big Band, entitled "[A]part" which features some of Australia's most highly acclaimed musicians; Andrea Keller, Gian Slater and Sandy Evans. [A]part was a 2018 finalist for Jazz Work of the Year in the APRA Art Music Awards. Ellen was also a 2017 finalist for the prestigious Freedman Jazz Fellowship.
13-piece powerhouse Sirens Big Band plus featured soloists Andrea Keller, Sandy Evans and Gian Slater, present Ellen Kirkwood’s epic 56-minute, four-part suite. The magnum opus is Ellen’s emotive and captivating response to growing issues in a rapidly changing world: the wonder and malignance of the internet, the refugee crisis, greed and climate change, and reflections/reactions to the present.
A dynamic collective bringing new sounds to the traditional big band setting, Sirens Big Band are passionate about increasing gender diversity in jazz through their predominantly female and trans line-up. Ellen Kirkwood, a member since Sirens’ formation in early 2010, has been an important contributor to the group’s unique repertoire. Pianist Andrea Keller, saxophonist Sandy Evans and vocalist Gian Slater are three of Australia’s most celebrated and in-demand jazz performer/composers, and have played a significant part in inspiring Ellen and her generation of creative jazz musicians.
Ellen Kirkwood & Sirens Big Band’s latest album [A]part is out now.