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‘Leah Cotterell could sing the shopping list and melt your heart.’
(Rhythms Magazine, 2002) 


Leah Cotterell has performed for 30 years with top professional musicians everywhere from folk clubs to jazz festivals, from civic halls to concert stages and on radio and TV. In the 80s she found her first success in cabaret and jazz, in the 90s she pursued degree studies, song writing and recording and post 2000 she has produced works showcasing her musical collaborations, securing partnerships with major festivals and significant arts funding.


In 2020 Leah completed her Doctoral project, 'The Singer's Anatomy' investigating the underlying processes of performance. In 2019 she was creative producer for 'The Genius of John Rodgers', a production by The Queensland Music Festival with QPAC and the QSO. Her abiding interest in community singing resulted in a commission to facilitate a combined choir performance, 'Songs From Our Suburbs' for Brisbane City Council's Festival 2018 and her most recent artistic work is 'The Pleasure of Sad Songs', a performance that tells the story of her early life as a carer for family members with serious mental illnesses. This work has been presented at many venues and is the subject of a 'Conversations' interview on ABC Radio National.



Since 1984 Leah has performed with bands and in cabaret. Her  repertoires include jazz, Gospel, traditional folk, country music and pop. From the riotous good nature of 'The Blue Boys' (1987-88) to the sophisticated driving jazz  of 'Bebopa' (1989-92), from the seven-piece Gospel celebration of 'Tell Heaven' (1997-2018) to fine, moody duets with Helen Russell on bass (1999-2006) and Jamie Clark on guitar (2006-2010), Leah has gone where her intuition has guided her.  She has also moonlighted with a Traditional Irish band, 'Tulca Mor' (2000-2003) and Melbourne studio band 'Black Taxi' (1995-99). Since 1997 Leah has been contributing lyrics to Helen, Jamie and John Rodger's music for her own performances and for commissioned projects. Leah also performed with A'capella trio 'Gypsy Tober'  touring to schools around Australia for Musica Viva (2002-2015). In 2021 Leah is contributing her 11th performance in the long running song review 'Women in Voice'.


As an independent producer of original works in collaboration with musicians and visual artists, Leah has coordinated and acquitted funding from the Australia Council, Arts Queensland, Queensland Health and the Brisbane City Council. Projects have included music history presentations 'Foolish Things' sharing the stories and images of Brisbane musicians across generations and 'The Primitif Requests the Pleasure...' celebrating Brisbane's iconic modernist coffee lounge. Exciting songwriting was the focus of both 'The Ultimate Prize: A John Rodgers Retrospective' and 'Whoa Tilly!' a concert of jazz songs for young children. In 'Little Birung' Megan Sarmardin told the stories of six generations of her proud North Queensland Indigenous family. All of these projects were designed to showcase the talents and skills of Leah's favourite musical collaborators. 


In 2021 Leah was awarded a Doctor of Musical Arts from Queensland Conservatorium Griffith University, developing a body of research that seeks to frame new conversations about solo singing-performance and the processes that make it work. Leah completed her Masters of Music Research in 2015. Her research at the Queensland Conservatorium focused on an exploration of the underlying mechanisms of emotion induction and empathy in vocal performance. The major research output was her performance, 'The Pleasure of Sad Songs', reflecting on her experience of being a life-long carer for family members whose lives were impacted by mental illness.



  • Professionalising the arts sector for work in mental wellbeing, commissioned research for the Australia Council, studying the Wesley Arts Program (2022-2023)

  • Letty Katts Fellowship at the State Library of Queensland, studying Brisbane's early modern jazz scene, documented in photographs of Peter Hackworth's Primitif Cafe (2023)


  • Support Worker and Facilitator, Access Arts Disability Choir (2015 - 2017)

  • Bookkeeper, Rio Rhythmics Dance Studio (2013 - 2018)

  • Bookkeeper, Geography Teachers' Association of Queensland (2013 - current)

  • Queensland Coordinator, Musica Viva In Schools (2006 - 2010)

  • Arts Officer, Queensland Council of Unions (2003 - 2006)


  • Conference paper at Eurovox 2018: The Congress of European Singing Teachers,The Hague Conservatorium, Netherlands (August 2018)

  • Public speaking on Women in Music for International Womens Day function at The Doo-Bop Bar (March 2018)

  • Conference paper at Peace, Empathy and Conciliation through Music: A Collaboratory, University of Melbourne (September 2017)

  • Panellist "She Blinded Me With Science" at A Rock & Roll Writers Festival (April 2017)

  • Conference paper at the Art and Health Conference: The Art of Good Health and Wellbeing,Arts Gallery of New South Wales (November 2016)

  • Keynote presentation at TAFE Services Conference,TAFE Mt Gravatt Campus (September 2016)

  • Conference paper atThe Australasian Association for Theatre, Drama and Performance Studies 2016 Conference: Resilience: Revive, Restore, Reconnect,University of Southern Queensland (June 2016)

  • Keynote presentationatTAFE Educator’s Learning and Teaching Excellence,ConferenceBrisbane Convention Centre (January 2016)



  • Facilitating music workshops for Wesley Arts (2019-2023)

  • Guest speaker at town planning forum Brisbane City Hall (2011)

  • Management of Indigenous protocols for family and community attending the opening of ‘Little Birung’ in Cairns (2011)

  • Production of concert at St Mary’s Church in aid of Father Peter Kennedy (2008)

  • Donation of oral history interviews with 16 musicians and venue operators to the QPAC Museum (2003)

  • Development of exhibition using original photography from the collection of the Queensland Council of Unions with new works by Peter Milne (2003)

  • Member of SWISH all-women’s big band, Melbourne (1995-1996)

  • ​Member Melbourne Improvisers Association (1995)

  • Music Peer Assessment panel for Arts Queensland (1990)

  • Production and promotion of cabaret variety shows, including a weekly revue ‘The Raven Room’ at Metro Arts and a monthly collectively run event ‘The Swing Factory’ at the Paint Factory (1986-1989)​

  • Regional workplace tour of Art In Working Life project for Queensland Nurses Union (1986)


  • 2021 Doctor of Musical Arts
    Queensland Conservatorium Griffith University, Australia

  • 2015 Masters of Music by Research
    Queensland Conservatorium Griffith University

  • 2012 Diploma of Accounting,
    Southbank Institute of Technology, Brisbane

  • 2003 Certificate of Multimedia,
    QANTM Institute, Brisbane

  • 1998 Bachelor of Music, Jazz Vocal and Musicology
    Queensland Conservatorium Griffith University

  • 1996 – Bachelor of Music, foundation year
    La Trobe University, Australia

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