Portrait of Professor Rachel Cowgill Professor Rachel Cowgill

r.e.cowgill@hud.ac.uk | 01484 471397


Professor Rachel Cowgill is Head of Music and Drama in the School of Music, Humanities and Media. She graduated from Goldsmiths, University of London, with a first-class BMus (Hons) degree, and completed an MMus (Historical Musicology) and PhD at King’s College London, where her research focused on the reception of Mozart’s music in late Georgian London. She began her career at the University of Huddersfield (1996–2000) and returned to the University in her new role as Head of Music and Drama in 2014. In the interim she taught at the University of Leeds (2000–09), and was appointed to professorships at Liverpool Hope University (2009–11) and Cardiff University (2011–14; Head of School, 2013–14).

Research and Scholarship

Rachel works in the area of cultural musicology, exploring the place, practice and meaning of music in its cultural, historical and political contexts. She has published widely on British music and musical life from the late eighteenth century to the early twentieth century; opera studies; music, conflict and memorialisation; Mozart reception and canon formation; and gender, sexuality and identity in music. Rachel’s research has been funded by the British Academy and the Arts and Humanities Research Council (UK), and she was a member of the Leverhulme International Research Network Enchanted Modernities: Theosophy, Modernism and the Arts, c.1875–1960, led by Sarah V. Turner (Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art and University of York). Currently she is principal investigator for In Concert: Towards a Collaborative Digital Archive of Musical Ephemera, part of the AHRC’s Digital Transformations project, Transforming Musicology, led by Lancaster University, and a member of the Romantic National Song Network funded by the Royal Society of Edinburgh. Rachel’s current research addresses the following themes: 

  • Music and the First World War in Britain
  • Music and Modernity in early Twentieth-Century British Culture
  • Blackface Minstrelsy in Britain
  • Collective Performance and Negotiated Identities in Nineteenth-Century British Music
  • Gender and Adaptation in Nineteenth-Century British Productions of Mozart’s operas
  • The Victorian Reception of Mozart’s Requiem
  • Operatic Femininities
  • Archival Research and Digital Musicologies


Rachel is a Vice-President of the Royal Musical Association and a member of the AHRC Peer-Review College (Strategic Reviewer).  She is also a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (FHEA), a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts (FRSA), and an invited Associate of the Leeds Centre for Victorian Studies.  Between 2013 and 2016 Rachel was Chair of the National Association for Music in Higher Education, and continues as VIce-Chair (NAMHE, http://www.namhe.ac.uk).

She is also an External Adviser to the Arts & Humanities Board of the Open University. 

- Editorships

Rachel co-edits the book series ‘Music in Britain, 1600–2000’ with Byron Adams and Peter Holman for Boydell & Brewer, and was Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of the Royal Musical Association, 2007–12.

- Keynote Addresses and Plenaries

  • Keynote, Between the Chapel and the Tavern: Church Music and Musicians in Britain, 1660-1900, Canterbury Cathedral and Canterbury Christ Church University, 20-23 June 2017
  • Keynote, Music, Texts, Interpretations and Rituals: A Symposium, Monash University, Melbourne, 27 November 2015
  • Opening keynote, The Music of War: 1914–1918, British Library, 29–31 August 2014
  • Respondent to Music session, Internationalism and the Arts: Imagining the Cosmopolis at the Long fin de siècle, Tate Britain, September 2013
  • Plenary, ‘Burlesquing the Don on the Early Nineteenth-century London Stage’. Don Juan: Interdisciplinary Symposium, Open University Literature and Music Research Group, 23 September 2011
  • Music Keynote, ‘Performance Alfresco: Music-Making in London’s Pleasure Gardens, pre-1880’. Vauxhall Revisited: Pleasure Gardens and Their Publics, 1660–1880, Tate Britain (supported by the Paul Mellon Centre), July 2008
  • The Mason Lecture, ‘“Wild, capricious, and not always pleasing”: Mozart and Musical Genius in Late Eighteenth-Century England’. Thirty-First Annual Conference of the British Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies, Queens’ College, Cambridge University, January 2002 

- Invited lectures (forthcoming and most recent)

  • '"Tone Poems born of the World-Soul": John Foulds, Maud MacCarthy, and the Music of the Future'. Modernity and Esoteric Networks: Theosophy, Arts, Literature and Politics, National Museum of Ethnology, Osaka, and Institute for Research in Humanities, University of Kyoto, Japan, March 2017
  • '"We might now be living in the new Millennium": Cultural Diplomacy, Veterans’ Internationalism, and the Musical Rituals of Armistice Day in Britain, 1923–26'. Music, Nationalism and Transnationalism: Diplomacy, Politics, Aesthetics, 1918-1945, Royal Northern College of Music, 23-24 November 2016

- Visiting Fellowships (most recent)

  • Visiting Scholar in Musicology, Sir Zelman Cowen School of Music, 50th anniversary celebrations, Monash University, November 2015
  • Visiting Research Fellow at the Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities (CRASSH) and Clare Hall, University of Cambridge (2012)
  • Visiting Research Fellow at the Huntington Library, San Marino, California (Winter 2012–13)

- Appointments as External Examiner

  • PhD, Royal Holloway (2008, 2014)
  • BMus, University of Glasgow (2012–13)
  • MMus Music, Royal Holloway, University of London (2012-15)
  • MA Music, Oxford Brookes University (2012–16)
  • PhD, King’s College, London (2012)
  • PhD, University of Liverpool (2011)
  • Master in Music, Royal Conservatoire of Scotland (2010–15)
  • MA Music and Culture, Roehampton University, Dissertation module (2010)
  • PhD, National University of Ireland, Maynooth (2009, 2011) 
  • MPhil, Cambridge University (2008)
  • MA, University of Melbourne (2008)
  • MA Music (and MLitt (2008)), Newcastle University (2007–10)
  • MA Musicology, Cardiff University (2006–10)
  • BMus/BA Music, Roehampton University (2006–10)
  • MMus/MPhil dissertations, Academic External Examiner (SEA), Royal Northern College of Music (2006–11)
  • PhD, University of Manchester (2003, 2004)

- Media Appearances (most recent)

  • Participant expert, Who Do You Think You Are? Series 13 (Warwick Davis), BBC1, Winter 2016/17
  • Consultant and presenter (with Sara Mohr-Pietsch), ‘Tommy’s Tunes’, The Choir, BBC Radio 3, 29 June 2014
  • Series consultant, episode 3, Rule Britannia! Music, Mischief & Morals in the 18th Century, BBC FOUR, 21 April 2014
  • Newspaper reviewer: ‘Good Morning, Wales’, BBC Radio Wales, 8 February and 27 June 2014
  • Participant: Pack up Your Troubles, BBC Wales Today, 2 February 2014
  • Participant: About the Boys, BBC Radio 4, 31 December 2013
  • Interview (live) on prima donnas and divas, Woman’s Hour, BBC Radio 4, 26 September 2012
  • Participant: Wandering Minstrels, BBC Radio 3, 18 August 2012
  • Participant: Emma Hamilton's iPod, BBC Radio 4, 11 December 2010  
  • Participant: Chopin: The Women Behind The Music, BBC FOUR, 15-17 October 2010   

- Memberships

  • Society for Theatre Research
  • International Society for Music Education
  • Royal Musical Association
  • International Musicological Society
  • American Musicological Society
  • British Association for Victorian Studies
  • Northern Nineteenth-Century Network
  • Northern Opera Research Network
  • North-American British Music Studies Association

Research Degree Supervision

Rachel has supervised and co-supervised a number of research degrees to completion, including dissertations on:

  •  music in Victorian town halls (Dr Rachel Milestone)
  •  the composer Henry Rowley Bishop (Dr Ann Royle, AHRC)
  •  the audio-engineer in Jamaican popular music (Dr Ray Hitchins)
  •  DIY music as queer feminist resistance (Dr Julia Downes, ESRC)
  •  tonic sol-fa in nineteenth-century Britain (Sarah Taylor, MPhil)
  •  women, agency and the soundtrack in RKO Radio Picture crime films, 1939–50 (Dr Catherine Haworth)
  •  two AHRC-funded CDA projects with Dr Kara McKechnie (University of Leeds) and Opera North – the poetics of the opera libretto (practice-led, Dr Adam Strickson) and Opera North and the access agenda in action (Dr Jennifer Daniel). 

Rachel supervises Clare Wheat in a PhD on performance practice in British light opera, operetta and musical comedy. Rachel has contributed to the Oxford University Digital Humanities Summer School, and panels and training sessions at the Royal Musical Association Research Students Conference and at the Institute of Musical Research, University of London. With Dr Lisa Colton (University of Huddersfield) and Prof. Jo Wainwright (University of York) she devised and coordinated the AHRC-funded Music Archival Research Skills programme in 2005–07. 

Rachel is a member of the Academy for British and Irish Studies, and was co-founder of the Northern Opera Research Network (NORN) with Dr Kara McKechnie (University of Leeds) and Dr Sarah Hibberd (University of Nottingham).  

Rachel would like to hear from potential research/graduate students particularly with interests in opera studies, music and conflict commemoration, and British music and musical cultures. 

Enterprise Activities

Professor Cowgill appears regularly on TV and radio, and has provided programme notes, lectures and/or preconcert talks for Glyndebourne Festival Opera, Leeds International Concert Series, London Handel Festival, London Symphony Orchestra, the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, the National Portrait Gallery, Opera North, the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, the Southbank Centre, Welsh National Opera, Music in the Round, The Three Choirs Festival, Huddersfield Choral Society and Halifax Choral Society. Most recently, with members of the Enchanted Modernities Leverhulme International Research Network, she has co-curated the exhibition Pioneering Spirit: Maud MacCarthy – Music, Mysticism and Modernity, Borthwick Institute for Archives, University of York, 7 February – 9 May 2014 (online at http://hoaportal.york.ac.uk/hoaportal/pioneering-spirit.jsp) and authored exhibition text to accompany prints from Annie Besant and C.W. Leadbeater, Thought-Forms (1901), as part of Enchanted Modernities: Mysticism, Landscape and the American West, Nora Eccles Harrison Museum, Utah State University, USA, 16 April – 10 December 2014 

Administrative Responsibilities

Head of Department of Music and Drama, and member of the University Teaching and Learning Committee.

Teaching and Professional Activities

Music on Stage: Opera and Musical Theatre from Orfeo to Matilda

Music, Gender and Identity (team-taught)

Undergraduate Dissertations

Masters thesis and PhD supervision

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