Nigel Westlake’s career in music has spanned more than four decades. As a composer for the screen, his film credits include the feature film ‘Ali’s Wedding’, ‘Paper Planes’, ‘Miss Potter’, ‘Babe’, ‘Babe: Pig in the City’, ‘Children of the Revolution’, ‘The Nugget’, plus the Imax films ‘Antarctica’, ‘Imagine’, ‘The Edge and Solarmax’ and numerous others. His television credits include documentaries, telemovies, news themes and station idents.
His compositions have earned numerous accolades, including the Gold Medal at the New York International Radio Festival and 15 APRA awards (Australasian Performing Right assoc.) in the screen & art music categories. The feature film ‘Babe’ won the Golden Globe Award in 1996 for Best Feature Musical/ Comedy.
He studied the clarinet with his father, Donald Westlake, and left school early to pursue a performance career in music. His early career as a freelance clarinettist, bass clarinettist and saxophonist was spent touring Australia and the world performing with ballet companies, a circus troupe, chamber music ensembles, fusion bands and orchestras.
Nigel’s interest in composition dates from the late 1970s, when he formed a classical / jazz-rock / world-music / fusion band to perform original compositions. During this time he started to receive offers to compose for radio, circus, TV & film. In 1983 he furthered his studies of contemporary music in the Netherlands, studying bass clarinet with Harry Sparnaay and composition with Theo Leovendie.
He was appointed Composer in Residence for ABC Radio in 1984. From 1987 to 1992, he was clarinettist with the Australia Ensemble (resident at the University of New South Wales). In 1992 he was invited by guitarist John Williams to tour the UK & Australia as performer and composer with the ensemble “Attacca”.
Nigel’s tribute in music to his son, ‘Missa Solis – Requiem for Eli’, won the prestigious 2013 Paul Lowin Orchestral Prize (one of Australia’s richest prizes for music composition), along with the 2011 Limelight Award for Best New Composition. It was also named Orchestral Work of the Year at the 2012 Art Music Awards and was released to critical acclaim by ABC Classics, recorded by the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra and conducted by the composer.
‘Compassion’ is a song cycle in 7 movements based on a collection of ancient Hebrew & Arabic texts, composed in collaboration with Melbourne based singer songwriter Lior, and it won the 2014 ARIA for Best Classical Album. ‘Compassion’ received its US premiere by the Austin Symphony in 2016 to critical acclaim & was awarded the Austin Critics Table Award.
Nigel’s music has been performed and recorded by the world’s top artists, orchestras and ensembles and has been released on Sony Classics, Varese Sarabande, Geffen, ABC Classics, Tall Poppies, Move and other labels, with numerous titles available through itunes. In 2004 he was awarded the HC Coombs Creative Arts Fellowship at the Australian National University.
In 2008 he founded the Smugglers of Light Foundation in memory of his son Eli, to promote cultural awareness and empowerment through education via the mediums of music & film in youth & indigenous communities. He holds an honorary Doctorate in Music, awarded by the University of New South Wales in 2012.
Nigel was appointed composer in residence for the 2012 Australian Festival of Chamber Music (artistic director Piers Lane). He made his conducting debut with the Queensland Symphony Orchestra in 1997 and has since conducted performances and recordings of his own works with all the major symphony orchestras in Australia.
In 2016 Nigel was the conductor for ‘Babe in Concert’, a live concert version of the score he composed for the hit film ‘Babe’, gaining his US conducting debut at the Lincoln Centre with the New York Philharmonic in December 2016. He is also a director on the board of APRA (Australasian Performing Right Assoc.)