Janis Cook

photography: Robert Birze

Pianist, concert curator and music educator

Based in Melbourne, Australia

Motivated, resourceful & innovative

Freelance Career

Janis’ freelance career includes two decades as regular principal pianist with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, encompassing tours to Russia, Japan and Europe, numerous compact disc recordings, televised concerts, and special events such as Melbourne International Festivals, Classic Spectacular, Centenary of Federation and the 2000 Olympic Arts Festival.

In preparatory piano rehearsals Janis has worked with the world’s leading conductors and soloists at the highest levels of interpretative artistry – Yan Pascal Tortelier, Marcello Viotti, Mark Wigglesworth, Barbara Bonney, Sabine Meyer and Richard Tognetti, to name just a few.

Janis has also performed, toured and recorded with other major orchestras including Orchestra Victoria, Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra, Australian Pops Orchestra and Australia Pro Arte. Her extensive orchestral keyboard repertoire includes all the twentieth century classics by Stravinsky, Bartok, Copland, Shostakovich, Profofieff, Rachmaninoff, Orff, Adams, Reich, Holst, Saint-Saens, Lutoslawski, Henze, Schoenberg, Webern, etc. as well as the avant-garde as represented by Dean, Ades, Ligeti, MacMillan and others.

Janis’ engagements as a soloist include Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue, Mozart’s Piano Concertos No. 21 in C and No. 24 in C minor, Field’s Piano Concerto No. 2 in A flat, Hindemith’s Four Temperaments, McKimm’s Rhapsody for Piano and Concert Band (world premiere) and Bach’s Concerto in F minor, BWV 1056.

Innumerable chamber music performances cover MSO Players, ABC Sunday Live, 3MBS Radio, Metropolis, Music in the Round, Lyrebird Music Society, Music at St Silas, the Falls Creek Classical Music Festival and much more. Janis has been involved in many workshops and premiere performances of Australian chamber works by composers including Barry McKimm, Julian Yu, David Keeffe, Barry Conyngham and Robert Cossom and has performed world premiere piano duos with Fiona Fraser in Australia and Europe.

Janis’ curates her own Cook & Co. chamber concerts which  feature unique ensembles of the finest musicians and innovative programming. Cook & Co. has performed in direct broadcasts for the ABC and 3MBS & at select venues such as SMARTartZ Gallery and Monash Gallery of Art.

As a session musician, Janis can be heard on the soundtracks of familiar movies such as Babe, Cosi, The Dish, Father Damien and Napoleon working with composers Nigel Westlake, Paul Grabowsky, Bill Conti and others.

Harpsichord performances include Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos with Orchestra Victoria ensembles and the South Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, various orchestral parts, and continuo on many occasions including the Herald Sun Aria final.

In demand as an associate artist, Janis has played with leading international and Australian soloists at flute, brass, single and double reed festivals, accompanied numerous successful candidates in professional auditions, and supported many postgraduate performers in final recitals.

Choral accompaniment for the Melbourne Chorale, MSO Chorus and other choirs includes Handel’s Messiah, Stravinsky’s Symphony of Psalms, Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms, and requiems by Faure, Mozart and Verdi.

Teaching, Mentor-ship and Writing

  • Janis’ book of essential keyboard excerpts from chamber and orchestral repertoire, THE REST: for pianists, is a valuable resource for intermediate and advanced pianists.
  • Articles by Janis can be found in industry publications.
  • Appreciating the importance of good training,  in addition to maintaining a private studio, Janis has held teaching positions at Geelong College, Yamaha Music School, St Kevin’s College and St. Catherine’s School.
  • Janis coaches student ensembles, instructs young orchestral keyboardists and gives master classes in solo and ensemble repertoire.
  • An accredited piano examiner for the Australian Music Examinations Board, and an auditioner for the Australian Youth Orchestra, Janis has adjudicated many competitions including the ABC Young Performers Award and the 3MBS Hephsibah Menuhin Award.
  • Janis’ postgraduate research has developed into an ongoing focus on pianistic training, leading to a Cook & Co. Summer Chamber Music workshop and several other projects to provide extension and enrichment for young players.

Early Years

At the age of twelve, Janis bought an old piano with saved pocket money and taught herself to play. Armed with a repertoire of Strauss waltzes, Seekers hits and the entire Allan’s Piano Folio No. 1 – the latter from her grandmother’s piano stool – she sought a teacher. Thus, formal piano lessons began with Fiona Fraser and later, William Lowe. These inspiring teachers were descendants of a teaching tree stemming from the great Franz Liszt.

After a Rotary Exchange Studentship to the United States and architecture studies at the University of Melbourne, Janis turned to her bent for collaborative performance and specialised in dance accompaniment and music theatre.

For several years Janis toured with the Australian Ballet Company as a full-time repetiteur, working alongside many respected conductors, composers, choreographers and performers – Jack Lanchbury, Dobbs Frank, Barry Wordsworth, Kelvin Coe, Eric Brun, Dame Peggy van Praagh and Sir Robert Helpmann, to mention a few. The myriad facets of her position included onstage piano solos, regular stints in the orchestra pit, performances on live television and ABC simulcasts including the opening of the State Theatre, Melbourne.

Janis features on keyboards in many recordings…

Compact Discs/MP3’s/DVD’s include:

Utaki: The Sacred Grove Summit Records W 205330  Review:‘The Melbourne-based Flinders String Quartet along with Janis Cook (piano) combine with Matt to give about as fine a performance of this extended one movement work as one is ever likely to hear.’4barsrest.com

Vienna, City of my Dreams ABC Classics 476 6905

MSO LIVE: Shostakovich ABC Classics 476 8364

Classical Spectacular (CD + DVD) ABC Classics 476 8903

Out of the Blue ABC Classics 462 017-2

Australia Pro Arte Live at BMW Edge Move Records MD3312

Tansman Symphonies Vol 2 – Symphonic Testaments Chandos CHSA 5054

Tansman Symphonies Vol 1 Chandos CHSA 5041

Brett Dean: Beggars and Angels ABC Classics 4761606

Out of the Blue ABC Classics 462017-2

Puccini Passion (re-released) MR301110

Simple Gifts ABC Classics (re-issued) 442 509-2

Towards the Shining Light ABC Classics 426 8072

Forbidden Colours: Four Australian Contemporary Orchestral Works Vox Australis 015-2

Film and Television Soundtracks include:

  • Babe
  • Babe: Pig in the City
  • The Dish
  • Cosi
  • Napoleon
  • Father Damien
  • Empire Falls
  • Mr Accident

Video Games include:

  • Polar Express