Don Banks Award: Mike Nock

From the media release

mn-colour-postcard-300x209The Australia Council for the Arts has recognised the outstanding contribution of jazz pianist, composer and bandleader Mike Nock by awarding him the 2014 Don Banks Music Award.

The Australia Council and members of the jazz and wider music community will pay tribute to Mr Nock at a ceremony prior to his gig at the Seymour Centre’s Sound Lounge on Saturday, 1 February.

Australia Council Chief Executive Officer Tony Grybowski said Mr Nock’s work as a musician, composer and mentor has had a huge impact on many musicians, both in Australia and internationally.

“Mike Nock has had an enviable career and produced a remarkable body of work, which spans performing, recording and composing,” Mr Grybowski said.

“As a respected and influential artistic leader, it is fitting that the Council recognises his significant contribution to Australian music with this award.”

Council Director Music Paul Mason said during his long career Mr Nock had earned the respect and admiration of many of his peers, both here and overseas.

“Mike has worked with some of the legends of the jazz world, most notably during his 25 years in the United States, including Coleman Hawkins, Yusef Lateef, Dionne Warwick and Sam Rivers,” Mr Mason said.

“He has also produced an extensive catalogue of critically acclaimed, internationally released recordings.

“His work in the 1970s with The Fourth Way established his international career and he has continued to tour extensively in Europe, Asia, the US, Canada, New Zealand and Australia.

“As an orchestral composer he has been commissioned by groups such as the Cleveland Chamber Orchestra, the Dundedin Civic Orchestra, the UMO Jazz Orchestra in Finland and the Australian Chamber Orchestra.

“He has been a dedicated mentor to young and emerging musicians through his teaching at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music and by providing opportunities for them to play in his bands, including his current group the Mike Nock Project.

“It is clear from the words of his peers that Mike has inspired a generation of musicians through his commitment to the artform and his great musical integrity.”

After the ceremony Mike and his band will perform a 60-minute suite, which he composed through a commission from the Sydney Improvised Music Association (SIMA), with support from the Australia Council.

The gig is part of SIMA’s weekly jazz performance program at the Seymour Centre, which is being held to mark the organisations’ 30th year.

The Australia Council Don Banks Music Award honours a distinguished artist who has made an outstanding and sustained contribution to music in Australia.  It was established to honour Don Banks, an Australian composer, performer and the first Chair of the Music Board.

Recipients must be over 50 years old and nominated for the award.  Nominations must demonstrate their importance to the music industry.

Past winners include Kev Carmody (2013), Jon Rose (2012) Belinda Webster (2011) and Warren Fahey (2010).

About Mike Nock

Born in New Zealand in 1940 and now living in Sydney, pianist/composer Mike Nock is one of the acknowledged masters of jazz in Australasia. His reputation rests partly on his imposing international experience which includes:

  • Twenty five years working in the USA with many of the world’s top jazz musicians such as Coleman Hawkins, Yusef Lateef, Dionne Warwick and Michael Brecker.
  • A large catalogue of critically acclaimed, internationally released recordings.
  • Leader of the 1970s seminal jazz-rock group The Fourth Way.
  • A substantial body of original compositions in print and on recordings.


Mike Nock returned to Australia from the US in 1985 after establishing an international reputation through his many tours and large catalogue of recordings.

In 1983 he hosted his own TV series “Nock On Jazz” and in 1993 was the subject of a TVNZ documentary widely shown in Australasia.  From 1996 to 2001 he was music director for Naxos/Jazz.

In 1999 he was the recipient of a two-year Australian Arts Council Fellowship and in 2009 he was inducted into the Australian Jazz Hall of Fame.

In 2003 he was awarded the New Zealand Order of Merit ONZM and his biography Serious Fun – the Life and Music of Mike Nock was published in 2010 (Norman Meehan-Victoria University Press).


About Don Banks

Don Banks was born in 1923 in Melbourne.  The son of a jazz musician, he began studying the piano and musical theory at the age of five.  Early in his career he earned his living as a jazz pianist and trombonist with bands such as that of Roger and Graeme Bell, where he gained valuable experience as an arranger and orchestrator.

In the 1950s he worked in London as a professional orchestrator and from 1956 he composed commercial music for feature films, documentaries, animated films, television, advertisements, record libraries and theatre.  He wrote some of the scores for the Hammer horror films, including Hysteria, The Reptiles and Rasputin,The Mad Monk.

He was chairman of the Society for the Promotion of New Music in 1967-68 and after being appointed music director at the University of London Goldsmiths’ College in 1969, Banks initiated new courses in conducting, guitar, folk music and jazz, and developed an Electronic Music Studio.

Don Banks returned to Australia in 1972 to take up a Fellowship in Creative Arts in Canberra where he gave lectures, attended and directed seminars and adjudicated.  He was also invited by the Prime Minister to chair the Music Board of the Australian Council for the Arts.

In 1973 he became Head of Composition and Electronic Music Studies at the Canberra School of Music, where he established the Canberra School of Music’s Electronic Music Centre, which under his guidance became the most advanced studio complex in the southern hemisphere.

In 1977 Banks was appointed Guest Composer at the NSW State Conservatorium of Music, and in 1978 became its Head of the School of Composition Studies.  In 1980 he was made a Member of the Order of Australia for services to music and received an honorary doctorate from the University of Melbourne.

Don Banks died of cancer in September, 1980.  His musical estate, consisting of papers, correspondence, manuscripts of most all his works, scores, tapes, discs and books, is preserved in the National Library of Australia in Canberra. The instruments from his electronic studio are preserved in the Powerhouse Museum, Sydney