Graeme Koehne

Graeme Koehne, AO (born 3 August 1956), is an Australian composer and music educator. He is best known for his orchestral and ballet scores, which are characterised by direct communicative style and embrace of triadic tonality. His orchestral trilogy Unchained Melody, Powerhouse, and Elevator Music makes allusions to Hollywood film score traditions, cartoon music, popular Latin music and other dance forms.

Life and career

Koehne was born in Adelaide. He completed his undergraduate and post-graduate studies at the Elder Conservatorium of Music in that city, studying composition with Richard Meale – a pupil of Winifred Burston, who had been a pupil of Ferruccio Busoni.

In 1982 he won the Young Composers Prize at that year's Adelaide Festival, gaining him national attention for his orchestral work Rainforest.[1] In 1984, Koehne was awarded a Harkness Fellowship to work at the School of Music, Yale University. Here he studied with Louis Andriessen and Jacob Druckman. For two years of the fellowship he also took private lessons with Virgil Thomson.[1]

He returned to Australia in 1986 and was appointed Lecturer in Composition at the Elder Conservatorium of Music. In the early 1990s he collaborated with librettist Louis Nowra on the chamber opera Love Burns, which was premiered at the 1992 Adelaide Festival.[1] Around this time, he commenced his long and fruitful collaboration with choreographer Graeme Murphy, which included a children's ballet based on Oscar Wilde's The Selfish Giant and the full-length work Nearly Beloved.

As of 2005, Koehne is Head of Composition at the Elder Conservatorium of Music.[2] Until recently he also chaired the Music Board of the Australia Council and was a board member of the Council.

Graeme is married to former model, now advertising Creative Director of Oranje Creative, Melinda Parent. Graeme and Melinda have one son Willem Lukas Christiaan (Born 2007).[3]


In 2001, Koehne was awarded the Centenary Medal.[4] In the 2014 Queen's Birthday Honours List, Koehne was appointed as an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO), "for distinguished service to the performing arts as a composer of chamber, concert and ballet music, and through substantial contributions as an educator and arts administrator."[5]



Chamber music

  • String Quartet
  • To His Servant Bach God Grants a Final Glimpse – The Morning Star (1989; also transcribed as organ trio)


  • InFlight Entertainment (2000, oboe concerto)


  • Rainforest (c. 1982)
  • Unchained Melody (1991)
  • Powerhouse (1993)
  • Elevator Music (1997)
  • Way Out West (2000)
  • Sleep of Reason (2008)
  • Song of the Open Road (2017)



  • Tivoli Dances (2008) – featuring: "Tivoli Dances", "Shaker Dances", "Palm Court Suite", and "To His Servant Bach, God Grants a Final Glimpse: The Morning Star"; performed by the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra
  • Time Is a River (2015) – featuring: "Forty Reasons to Be Cheerful (Festive Fanfare)", "The Persistence of Memory", "Divertissement, Trois pieces bourgeoises", "Between Two Worlds", and "Time Is a River"; performed by the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra



  1. Martin Buzacott, "Powerhouse", ABC Radio 24 Hours, April 1999, p. 38
  2. "Elder Conservatorium of Music: People – Composition"
  3. 'Melinda a proud parent' Sunday Mail Adelaide, 19 August 2007 p.119
  4. It's an Honour
  5. "The Queen's Birthday 2014 Honours List" (PDF). 8 June 2014. Retrieved 8 June 2014.
  6. Sydney Dance Company: Complete Repertoire
  7. "Winners – Classical Music Awards". Australasian Performing Right Association (APRA). Retrieved 28 April 2010.


  • Bebbington, W. (ed.) (1997), The Oxford Companion to Australian Music, Melbourne, Oxford University Press, pp. 324–325.
  • Kennedy, Michael (2006), The Oxford Dictionary of Music, 985 pages, ISBN 0-19-861459-4
  • Williams, L. (1988) "Emerging Australian Composers", The Musical Times, Vol. 129, No. 1749. (Nov. 1988), pp. 591–594.
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