If you’re interested in composition lessons, career mentoring or feedback on your work (either completed or in-progress) email me at john@johnpsathas.com

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Testimonials From Past Students

Briar Prastiti

John has been by far the most incredible teacher I have ever had. I took several composition papers with John during university, and the first time I had him as a teacher, the world seemed to open up. He has a gift for pulling the best out of his students, and inspiring them in so many ways. What I really admire about John is that he is so open minded, supportive, and interested in every individual’s creative voice, and with that, he will push you to follow nothing less than the best creative version of yourself. Adding to that, you can’t help but become awe-inspired when John talks about music, especially when he himself is so unbelievably talented. His sheer level of fascination and respect for the inner workings of music is quite infectious, and you will surely have conversations that make you feel as though your soul has been thoroughly fed! But even aside from his musical knowledge, John has been the best mentor for so many (more unspoken) realities of life as a creative being; contending with self-belief, knowing strengths and weaknesses, and finding a place in the world. His huge amount of faith in my potential has really helped me to strengthen my belief in myself and my work, and for that I am so grateful. I can say without hesitation, that I feel incredibly lucky to have John in my life, and I highly recommend him as a teacher. https://www.briarprastiti.com/

Lucien Johnson

During my Masters and Doctoral studies in composition at Victoria University, I had the extreme good fortune to be supervised by Professor John Psathas. John’s music is perhaps well known for being powerful, virtuosic, resilient and indefatigable, but there is another side to it which is reflective, quietly emotive, and, dare I say, spiritual. In his humble and down-to-earth manner, John brings all these various qualities to his teaching and mentorship. John is probably the most hard working and dedicated person I know, who always seems to have several momentous projects in the pipeline. In my experience this never detracts from his teaching, to which he devotes the utmost focus. John’s open-mindedness and his immense knowledge of musical styles from all around the world, mean that he is always both capable and willing to get inside the minds of his students, no matter what musical direction they take. The generous manner in which he gives his pupils advice and feedback never fails to instil confidence and a deeper understanding of their own musical trajectory. At the same time he is able to challenge his students, and to encourage them to transcend their own limitations (or perception of their limitations), thus often extracting from them their finest work. My time studying under John Psathas was wonderfully stimulating, deeply challenging and hugely rewarding. I have no hesitation in endorsing him as a mentor. https://www.lucienjohnson.com/

Gemma Peacocke

John is the reason I’m a composer. He is a fantastic champion for his students and for big, bold, unrealistic ideas. With John I learnt about rhythm, tonality, controlling musical energy, and being brave. He maintained faith in me as a composer when I had little confidence in myself, and he is the reason I persisted with my vague dream of becoming a professional composer while I worked full time in an office and after I moved overseas. One of the things I loved about studying with John is that he doesn’t make a distinction between classical/academic music and other musical genres. He has always been encouraging of my wide and weird swath of influences, from Sigur Rós to Saariaho, to the music from the TV show Lost. John encouraged me to use my time as a student experimenting and he allowed me to fail without judgement, and always celebrated small successes. I moved overseas and didn’t compose much for a few years, but every time I went home and saw John he would gently but firmly nudge me about pursuing composition. Eventually I applied to Masters programmes in the US and I got to study with Julia Wolfe at NYU Steinhardt. I’m now at Princeton doing a PhD in composition. John is an extraordinary composer whose work crosses artistic boundaries. He’s worked with orchestras, choirs, folk musicians from all over the world, chamber ensembles, and genre-defying musicians like Serj Tankian. He’s highly knowledgeable about all areas of classical music as well as film music and commercial music, and he is well-known and highly-regarded in New Zealand as well as the US and UK. His work is frequently performed at home and internationally, and his interdisciplinary projects are ambitious and wondrous. If you have the opportunity to study with him, jump at it! www.gemmapeacocke.com

Ewan Clark

John Psathas is New Zealand's most successful composer on the international stage, and has an equally well-deserved reputation as a leading music educator. As my primary supervisor during my PhD in film scoring (2014-2017) he was a reliably strong source of guidance, support, encouragement, and inspiration. Rather than imposing his own stylistic preferences on his students, John's approach is to help each student to better reach their own creative and stylistic goals. He is equipped to help music creators from any style not only because he has an open mind to all styles, but because he possesses an advanced understanding of many styles himself. His oeuvre blends influences from jazz, rock, contemporary art music, film music, and non-western traditions. John possesses all of the personal qualities of a terrific mentor. As well as being exceptionally knowledgeable and talented, he is always patient, empathetic, honest, good-humoured, and deeply thoughtful in his feedback. John also generously assists his students to progress in their careers; many valuable composition-related work opportunities have come my way because John put my name forward and/or provided a reference. For all of the above reasons, I heartily recommend John as a mentor to any composer seeking to reach new heights and depths of accomplishment in their chosen style. https://www.ewanclarkmusic.com/

Grayson Gilmour

Since crossing paths in 2003, John has been a very important teacher and personal mentor throughout my musical career; from my undergraduate studies, to my Masters degree, and with personal projects beyond university. As an academically and professionally accomplished composer, John’s connection to music is both deeply emotional and technical; understanding not only what moves us, but how we’re moved. It’s not only this kind of insight that makes John so uniquely relatable, but also his down-to-earth, humble and generous nature; always making time for his students, despite being one of the most active composers in the country (if not the world!)https://graysongilmour.com/

Salina Fisher

It’s difficult to put into words how profoundly John’s teaching has influenced who I am, as a person and as a composer. He is an incredibly open-minded, genuine, and generous person, and an extremely committed and passionate teacher. The level of engagement, depth of thought, and respect that I’ve felt in every single interaction with John is totally unique, and has stretched my mind in so many beautiful and unexpected ways. Despite his immense experience and skill as a composer, John never assumes his knowledge is superior; he creates a space in which your ideas are truly respected, listened to without judgment, and discussed in depth. Whilst drawing on a wealth of knowledge and personal experience in a really open and honest way, John extends this collaborative learning environment by encouraging collaboration with peers and other artists, as well as recommending all kinds of fascinating reading and listening. I came away from every lesson feeling empowered and excited to compose, and over time I really developed my ability to navigate compositional challenges through creative and critical thinking. Perhaps the most special part of having studied with John is the continuation of our friendship. As I continue to navigate post-study life as a composer, it is beyond amazing to know that I can share ideas and challenges with someone so engaged and experienced, who I absolutely trust and feel supported by. It is a complete privilege to have studied with John and I cannot recommend him enoughwww.salinafisher.com 

Christine White

The gold that John brings to the mentoring process is the attention he gives to aspects of music that are seemingly invisible – the intent of the work (what the piece is trying to say), the energy of the work (where it rises/falls, needs support), the arc of the work (whether something needs expanding/contracting), the materials used in the work (whether they support the intent of the piece), and, most importantly, the heart and emotional content of the work. John provides a totally safe container for what can feel like an intimidating process. Never have I felt that something I have made is so carefully attended to, absorbed, and honoured as I have when John listens to a piece I am in the process of making. I have been so completely confident of his care, that I am then open to hearing and taking on board a new perspective. I know with confidence that what John may leave me to consider is the absolute essence of what I need to know in order to take the work to a better place.The breadth and depth of technical knowledge and expertise that John has goes without saying. More importantly though, he brings dialogue and an understanding of the person sitting in front of him as expressed through their particular musical story or language. What John has given from all of his experience are keys that have enabled me to transform what I am making into a better version of myself. This is priceless.  https://christinewhitealbum.com/

Tom McLeod

I feel beyond lucky to have had the privilege of learning from John. I know that I am not alone – he is truly one of those special people that profoundly impacts all those he meets, students or otherwise. As a teacher, John instills a real confidence towards learning. He inspires joy in the discovery of new things, and a hunger for knowledge that makes it as much about the journey, as the destination. And John is so open, it is clear that he is always learning himself - every moment he is also on the journey with us, we find and discover things together…I could wax on about his immense knowledge, his phenomenal musical skill, his magnificent mind for problem solving (and I mean magnificent!), his beautiful and limitless creativity, and his extraordinary gift for communicating ideas – all of which make him genuinely the finest composer and teacher imaginable. What you may not know, is that John is an incredibly generous person and collaborator. Beyond my formal studies, John has been a mentor to me on many of my professional projects – offering such wisdom and guidance that I have come to see things in profoundly new ways. The guy just knows what 'good' is - in every sense of the word. I think it comes from being a good human. I don’t think it would be too much to say, that knowing and learning from John has changed my life. For me, he is a true inspiration. www.tommcleod.com

Leila Adu

It took years of study for me to realize that John's biggest gift to students is his true presence — when he teaches he is really and truly there, and that "there-ness" is priceless. I studied formally with John as undergraduate and graduate, and we've stayed in touch with him as mentor throughout my professional, academic career and now as a music professor myself. From the start, he's always been attentive and interested in my music, the reasons behind what I'm doing, where I'm going and what I'm doing next.  John is a uniquely dedicated, gifted and inspiring teacher. His meticulous and profound knowledge of instruments, orchestration and arranging is mind-blowing. His drive and work ethic are impressive... infectious even! But, his care for meaning and the real heart of music is at the core of his teaching. That is the reason that so many of his students around the world are, like me, forever grateful for him as teacher, mentor and friend. https://steinhardt.nyu.edu/faculty/Leila_Adu-Gilmore

Jack Hooker

John is undoubtably the best teacher and mentor I have ever had. He was a lecturer of mine at University, and I have since had the privilege of working with him on a number of projects, including travelling around Europe, India and New Zealand for the monumental No Man’s Land project. John is absolutely the hardest-working and most dedicated person I have ever met, and his passion to create and learn has the ability to profoundly motivate those around him. After meetings with John, it was not uncommon for me to be pulled out of a creative slump, and to (literally) run home to continue composing well into the night. One of the aspects I respect the most about John’s mentoring is that he supports you on your individual musical path, and shows a genuine and selfless passion for helping you. John gives his complete presence and attention to your music. Even though he is one of New Zealand’s most celebrated composers, he will never impose his own stylistic preferences. Rather, he navigates his way into your musical world, and will encourage and guide you to fulfil your own musical potential, and to create the best possible music that you can. Apart from being a mentor, John has also been an amazing friend, and It is difficult to put into words how profound and inspiring my time with him has been. If you have the chance to work with John, jump at it. I honestly can’t recommend his teaching and guidance highly enough. https://www.jackhooker.co.nz/

Kenyon Shankie

Time with John, is time to be treasured. For the past four years, John has been my lecturer, supervisor, life coach, and friend. He  is not just a legendary composer, but a soft, genuine, relatable human being who carries the world on his shoulders, and yet still manages to find the time to help a wide-eyed student through his first day of class. Music for me has become a lifelong journey and I am the better for having had one on one guidance from John, particularly through my  postgraduate years. Postgraduate study is always going to be a challenging time, especially when your supervisor (John) has you traveling all of the world recording 150 world class musicians in different countries. It was during this time I got to know John  at a more meaningful level. I have found John to be a man of subtlety, a storyteller, and a being of deep contemplation who goes to great lengths to push my musical  boundaries - further than they ever have been. The best part about a conversation with John is his ability to delve into the subtleties and intricacies of specific music queries through explorative discussion. It is in this world of great care and nuance that  I learned the tools of my trade. I can say with absolute certainty that without John's guidance, my thesis would have been nothing more than a blank page of manuscript. It is as they say - if you want to be great, surround yourself with great people.


Graham Isaak

When you’re talking with John, you have his full attention, the same sort of immersive, creative attention that he puts into his work. This is a powerful force; it’s the quality one would look for in the best therapist. I’d heard a lot of creative people talk about their philosophy, but John stood out by having the work to back it up - music I loved, for orchestra, jazz ensemble, string quartet - and he has continued to pursue new challenges, working on film scores and collaborative projects in different styles. My experience has been that I can trust his word, because I love his work. Talking with John gave me courage to be myself. I’d already thought that the ideas of other experienced creators was worth listening to - Tolkien or Kubrick or Sondheim - but to hear John make reference to a speech by John Cleese, the music of Nik Bartsch, and the research of Mihály Csíkszentmihályi... it was clear that he didn’t consider anyone’s input to be off-limits when it comes to informing your own work. John encouraged me to practice what I was already inclined to try... I would call it an “immersion” approach, where you surround yourself by the world of a piece for a time, in isolation. Not only does this allow you to develop your own voice, but I found it has acted on me at a spiritual level as well - challenging my addictions to technology and consumption, my emotional dependence on others, and my complete lack of discipline... my experiment in listening to John set these things free. I hope to one day have his gentle, encouraging focus with others. In summary, John gave me the courage to do what I already knew I wanted to do, but had never done; and I keep coming back to him for more. https://twitter.com/grahamisaak

Steffan Paton

Never before would I have thought when I started studying and composing music that I would be creating my own portfolio for a masters degree while travelling around the world recording incredible musicians in outrageous locations. These opportunities came thanks to the mentoring and creative constructive pressure applied by John during my time studying under him. He is a mentor that really does ask you to push your skill set further, to look deeper into your emotional repertoire, and understand the audience experience as a result of your creation.  When writing music with John I felt constantly challenged and encouraged to develop my work towards something that presented and expressed my own personal character in the most unique and authentic way possible. John would have you leaving a session feeling more confident and creative as an artist on the edge of the creative community and I could not thank him enough for this. It was an incredible feeling to be creating music that felt genuinely from me that could also have a life and existence in todays industryhttps://opalhousemusic.bandcamp.com/