Discover Avondale University

About the Conservatorium

The launch of the Conservatorium of Music on August 24, 2013, crowns a long and significant history of music at Avondale University. Music has been integral to the cultural, academic and spiritual life at Avondale since its founding in 1897.


Avondale Conservatorium offers certificate, undergraduate and postgraduate courses. Undergraduate students can complete a specialisation, a major or a minor in music as part of a:

Postgraduate students can complete a Master of Philosophy (Research) in music. For more information about studying music at Avondale Conservatorium, read the Music Student Information booklet.


The Shields Music Scholarship supports a student who within the context of Avondale’s demonstrates an aptitude for and commitment to vocal or instrumental studies. The scholarship, awarded on merit, is worth $2000 a year.


University Church

Avondale University Seventh-day Adventist Church, opened in 1986 and seating 850, is a multi-purpose venue that provides a large performance space for concerts, oratorios and worship services. Its reverberation time and significant acoustic diffusion enhance choral and acoustic instrumental ensembles. The venue hosts the annual Homecoming and graduation concerts and has hosted the Australian Chamber Orchestra, Australian contemporary vocal quartet The Idea of North and the multi-award-winning Yorkshire Building Society Band directed by Avondale University alumnus Professor David King.

Voice Box

The Voice Box is a space primarily dedicated to vocal tuition and practice. It is also utilised by small ensembles, and is open to the general student population by request.

Music Hall

Music Hall, opened in 1925, is the first building built of brick on Avondale University’s Lake Macquarie campus.
It contains the administrative offices of the Conservatorium, and an additional four practice rooms and a recital hall.

Brandstater Amphitheatre

The Brandstater Amphitheatre, opened in 2010 and designed by architect David Stafford, connects the Chan Shun Auditorium with College Hall on an axis running through the middle of Avondale University’s Lake Macquarie campus. It provides a performance space for recitals and concerts.

Greer Hall

Greer Hall is a workhorse of the Conservatorium, containing a dedicated piano studio, a MIDI-keyboard-equipped harmony/composition/history classroom, and an expansive band room, which plays host to rehearsals for many of the Conservatorium’s ensemble groups.

Ella Hughes Chapel

The Ella Hughes Chapel provides the Conservatorium with a mid-sized venue for recitals and concerts. Built as Ladies Chapel in 1979, it was renamed in 2015 in honour of Ella (Evans) Hughes (1864-1962), a pioneer of wholistic education.


The music program at Avondale University began in 1911. The program became Avondale Conservatorium in 2013.

Gifted educator Charles Schowe is a key figure in the early growth of the program. He headed the program from 1911 to 1918, teaching violin, piano and voice, directing a choir and orchestra, staging Avondale’s first performance of Handel’s Messiah and also teaching Greek and history. He developed a four-year academic program in music and, at a time when few at Avondale shared his vision for external recognition, encouraged students to take the exams of the Australian Music Examinations Board and Trinity College London.

Avondale completed building the Music Hall under principal Lynn Wood in 1925. Robert Johnson, a talented musician, steered the music program through the challenging 1930s.

The program made significant gains under George Greer, music director from 1947 to 1952. Already known for outstanding choral work in the United States, Greer established the 60-voice Avondale Symphonic Choir, now , which performed sacred music a capella, gaining a national reputation for its eight-part blended harmonies and technical precision. The choir toured most states of Australia and appeared on ABC Radio. Greer introduced annual performances of the Messiah, along with midyear oratorios such as Haydn’s Creation and Mendelssohn’s Elijah. By the end of his tenure, 200 students were taking music lessons. Dr Noel Clapham, who followed Greer, sustained similar high standards of choral performance.

One of the most notable chapters in the history of music at Avondale began with Alan Thrift’s appointment as head of music in 1957, a tenure that spanned 34 years. Thrift expanded the choral repertoire into a broader range of styles and genres, producing highly accomplished performances that were often technically challenging. His choirs were broadcast on radio and television, toured every state of Australia and to New Zealand and the United States.

David Clark’s tenure was also significant. He taught music at Avondale for 25 years, including eight years as music coordinator. He established the Avondale Chamber Orchestra, founded the Suzuki Piano School at Avondale, hosted annual Suzuki professional conferences and initiated European study tours for music majors. His organ students now enrich worship in churches.

Dr Robb Dennis, appointed in 2004, formed The Promise vocal ensemble, further refined Avondale’s degree programs in music, established a computer lab for music composition and expanded the music program into Greer Hall, the former Science Hall now named in honour of George Greer.

The new Avondale Conservatorium director, Dr Aleta King, has taken music at Avondale to further levels of academic and performance excellence—Avondale graduated its first higher degree research student in music in 2012. Aleta has also established connections between the Avondale Singers and The University of Newcastle Wind Orchestra, collaborating for the first time in 2014 and again in 2015. Like the others before her, Aleta is motivated by the desire to employ music to the glory of God.—Dr John Cox, former president, Avondale University


Dr Aleta King

Director, Avondale Conservatorium
Lecturer, Musicianship and Conducting
Artistic director, The Promise
Director, Avondale Singers
Director and conductor, Avondale Chamber Orchestra

Dr Ian Cook

Senior Lecturer, Musicology and Conducting
Director, Avondale Wind Ensemble
Tutor, Clarinet, Saxaphone

Marina ‘Aho

Administrative assistant

Casual staff

David Pudney

Casual academic, Improvisation and Keyboard Skills
Director, Avondale Jazz Ensemble
Tutor, Upright and Electric Bass

Dr Guy Strazz

Casual academic, Ethnomusicology and Composition
Director, Avondale Guitar Ensemble

Dr Sohyun Eastham

Director, Avondale String Orchestra
Concert Master, Avondale Chamber Orchestra
Tutor, Violin, Viola

Gavin Clark

Principal cellist, Avondale Chamber Orchestra and Avondale String Orchestra
Tutor, Cello

Ghillian Sullivan

Tutor, Voice

Blake Robinson

Lecturer, Music Technology Composition Tutor

Dr Jennifer St George

Tutor, Flute

Christina (Miunju) An

Tutor, Accompaniment, Piano

Robert Johnson

Tutor, French Horn

Stephen Muehr

Tutor, Percussion

Instrumental Tuition

Additional vocal and instrumental tutors are available on request. To see what instruments are available visit our instrumental tuition page.

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