Sebastian was born in 1996 in Colchester, UK. He recently completed a Masters in composition with Sir George Benjamin at King's College London, for which he was recipient of the Hilda Margaret Watts Prize, awarded for the highest Master’s mark. He graduated in 2017 from the University of Oxford with a first-class degree in music. While at Oxford, he received composition tuition from Robert Saxton and academic supervision from Jonathan Cross. Previously he studied at Chetham’s School of Music, studying composition with Jeremy Pike, and privately with Joseph Phibbs.
His music has been commissioned by Aldeburgh Music, the BBC, Mahler Foundation (for Het Concertgebouw's Mahler Festival 2020), the University of Cambridge, DanceEast, and New Music North West. In 2010, aged 14, he won BBC Young Composer. In the same year his piece Kollaps, for clarinet and electronics (2010), was premiered by Jordan Black at the Royal Albert Hall, London. This was followed by Five Lorca Settings (Jesus College, Cambridge, 2011), Notturno (Snape Maltings Concert Hall, 2012), and Narcissus (Chetham’s School of Music, Manchester, 2013). More recent works have included a song cycle, Chrysalis (Christ Church, Oxford, 2015, broadcast on BBC Radio 3 in 2016), a chamber opera, The Sun (the premiere of which he conducted at Christ Church, Oxford, in 2016), and a work for large orchestra, Idyll-Cortège (Sheldonian Theatre, Oxford, 2017).
Sebastian also performs regularly as a pianist. In 2016, he was invited to play at the memorial concert for Sir Peter Maxwell Davies at St John’s Smith Square, London, in which he performed the Five Pieces for Piano Op. 2. He also enjoyed working in 2016 with Rebecca Saunders on a performance of her Duo. He has also enjoyed curating concerts and festivals, most notably the Christ Church Music Weekend, a festival of chamber music, recitals and poetry reading, with music ranging from Philippe de Vitry to Jörg Widmann.
Forthcoming projects include a new work commissioned by the Mahler Foundation for mezzo-soprano and chamber orchestra to be toured across Europe by the Orchestra for the Earth and John Warner. The world premiere will be at Paradiso, Amserdam, as part of Het Concertgebouw’s Mahler Festival 2020 in May 2020.
He is represented on SOUNZ, the Centre for New Zealand Music, Toi te Arapūoru. You can view and hire scores from them here.
He is a citizen of Aotearoa New Zealand and the United Kingdom.
See a long version of this biography here.
All images © Sebastian Black unless otherwise stated.
Above: Tongariro National Park, NZ (2020). Below: © Rupert Dugdale.