New Dean for Music Conservatory

After a rigorous international search, Norwegian composer and researcher Dr Peter Tornquist has been appointed the new Dean of the NUS Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music (YST). He will begin his term of office in February next year.

Dr Tornquist is an influential voice in higher music education.

Peter’s work has been central in establishing artistic research as a pivotal field of knowledge in modern conservatories, and a strategic tool for developing students as inquisitive artists. With his keen understanding of the evolving higher music education landscape in the 21st century, I am confident that YST will continue to make great strides under Peter’s stewardship,” said NUS President Professor Tan Eng Chye.

Originally from Sweden, Dr Tornquist also grew up in Switzerland and Brazil, before settling in Oslo, Norway where he studied composition with award-winning composer Professor Lasse Thoresen and concluded his education at the Royal College of Music in London under the guidance of British composer George Benjamin.

An accomplished musician and educator

Dr Tornquist is from the Norwegian Academy of Music, where he served as Principal from 2013 to July 2021.

In his role leading the Academy, he contributed to the development of higher music education through a widening network of strategic national and international partnerships, and helped position it as one of the highest ranked institutions in the Performing Arts globally. In recognition for his services to music, he was awarded Honorary Fellowships by the Guildhall School of Music and Drama and the Royal Northern College of Music.

His academic expertise covers the fields of composition, electronic music, improvisation and music theory, alongside rich experience in classroom teaching, curriculum development and graduate student supervision.

He has also contributed extensively to the development of phenomenological approaches to music analysis based on the writings of Pierre Schaeffer. Prior to his role as Principal at the Norwegian Academy of Music, he was its Head of Composition, Theory and Music Technology from 2007, and Associate Professor in Composition from 2008 to 2013.

Dr Tornquist also boasts a broad repertoire as a composer, performer and conductor, working across improvising soloists, orchestras, recitals, ensembles as well as live electronics. His major works have been performed by ensembles such as the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra, the Tokyo Symphony Orchestra, and the London Sinfonietta. He has also performed at various international music festivals and released several records with Fabror Melker Records, Aurora Records and Hemera Records.

The Governing Board and management of YST are excited to welcome Dr Tornquist to the Conservatory. YST Governing Board Chair Ms Chong Siak Ching said, “We are confident he will continue to advance YST’s artistic, educational, research and community work, as the Conservatory grows from strength to strength as Asia’s most exciting international conservatory and one of the world’s most distinctive music schools.”

Indeed, Dr Tornquist’s expertise and insights are widely sought-after internationally. He has served as Chair of Institutional Accreditation for the Royal Danish College of Music in Copenhagen, and chaired institutional reviews for numerous higher music education institutions across Europe and Asia. Within Norway, he was also President of Ny Musikk (the Norwegian section of the International Society for Contemporary Music), and Vice Chairman of the Norwegian Composer’s Association and of the Norwegian Performing Rights Society.

The prolific composer is raring to get going and is no stranger to the YST community.

“I am delighted to be joining YST and working alongside the highly qualified and dedicated team of colleagues here. YST has been a longstanding partner of the Norwegian Academy of Music, and I have been fortunate to get to know it during my past visits,” said Dr Tornquist.

Amidst a rapidly-changing global economy, our job as educators is to prepare students to push the boundaries and explore the full potential of their musical identity. My heartfelt thanks to Prof Bernard Lanskey for his leadership, which has shaped YST into the dynamic conservatory it is today, and I look forward to contributing my experience in furthering the Conservatory’s mission.”

See press release.

Nuggets from Dr Tornquist

On his international background:

“Growing up in many different countries (Sweden, Switzerland and Brazil before settling in Norway) has given me a broader perspective, a better understanding and a genuine respect for cultural diversity. Moving to Singapore, with its international mindset and vibrant mix of cultures, feels like a perfect culmination of this journey.”

On combining composition, leadership and teaching:

“Being a composer means working with people, time and a myriad of interconnected themes. Music is one of the most abstract forms of art, but in the end you need to make it audible to the audience. You’re constantly balancing between the fullness of an artistic vision and the practicalities of each single note. Very much like leading or teaching.”

And some fun facts:

“I look forward to exploring every running trail in Singapore, and am already looking for local races and running mates! I’m also a great lover of good food, and look forward to exploring the culinary delicacies of the Singapore cuisine.”