Professor John Harle FGSM ARCM (Hons)

Key details:

Electronic & Produced Music | Wind, Brass & Percussion
Saxophone - Guildhall Artist Masters


Since his return to Guildhall in 2017, John Harle has been appointed to roles that reflect the diversity of his own professional career. In 2018 was conferred the title of Professor, recognising the significance of his career and of his contributions to the Guildhall School.

At Guildhall, John is Director of The Leadership Academy and he is Professor of Music & Interdisciplinary Practice, leading The Bauhaus Band, a 16-piece ensemble that brings together students from the Jazz, Classical and Composition Departments. John is also a professor of Electronic & Produced Music in the Electronic and Produced Music Department, and of Saxophone in the Wind, Brass, Percussion Department, where he leads the teaching of the Masters saxophone students.

John specialises in project-based work for composers and instrumentalists, and the development and realisation of professional goals for his students. In 2021-22, he supervised sixty-two creative projects across six departments in the school. He also teaches composition, film music, saxophone, performance skills and modules in musical and cultural history.

2022 saw the start of his annual Bauhaus Festival, a multi-media collaboration with Guildhall Production Arts. The Bauhaus Festival is a celebration of the artistry of Guildhall students in an interdisciplinary programme of original cinema, music and art projects.

John was Artistic Advisor and Producer to Sir Paul McCartney from 1996-2002 and has written and produced albums for Elvis Costello and Marc Almond. He has won an Ivor Novello Award and two Royal Television Society awards for best musical score.

He has also collaborated with some of the world's leading musicians, including Sir Harrison Birtwistle, Gavin Bryars, Sir John Dankworth, Herbie Hancock, Moondog, Michael Nyman, Sting, Sir John Tavener, Mike Westbrook, Sir Richard Rodney Bennett, Elmer Bernstein, James Horner, Alexandre Desplat, Stanley Myers, Lorne Balfe and Hans Zimmer.

John has composed over 100 film and TV scores including the theme for BBC1's Silent Witness and the epic score for Simon Schama's A History of Britain. He is in a song writing partnership with Marc Almond (Soft Cell) and is currently composing for BBC1 and Netflix. John has written two full-scale operas and over fifty other concert works. His work is published by Faber Music, and in 2021 he released a 20-album compilation of his back catalogue in aid of the Help Musicians Coronavirus Hardship Fund.

His history as a radical, trail-blazing saxophone soloist from the 1970's onwards has resulted in over 100 new works be leading composers being dedicated to him, and he has contributed 25 works of his own to the repertoire. He was saxophone soloist in The Last Night of the Proms in 1996, performing Harrison Birtwistle’s controversial Panic, and was lead saxophonist in the Michael Nyman Band for fifteen years. His EMI recordings of Duke Ellington (The Shadow of the Duke) and his Saxophone Concertos album are regarded as classics of their genres. He has a discography of over 75 albums as composer and performer.

John founded the saxophone department at Guildhall School in 1984, and his students have included Jess Gillam, Simon Haram, Gerard McChrystal, Will Gregory, Tim Garland, Paul Stevens, Christian Forshaw, Mick Foster and Rob Buckland.

As well as work at Guildhall, he has held various academic posts, including Senior Lecturer in Music and Research Fellow at Canterbury Christ Church University 2014-16, Performance Director at Henley Management College 2006-8, and International Chair of Saxophone at The Royal Northern College of Music 2006-7.

He is a well-known media figure, having presented for BBC Radio 3, BBC Radio 4, and LBC, and has been a Castaway on Desert Island Discs. He regularly contributes to BBC Radio 4 Front Row and was an advisor to the Blair Government/DCMS on music education. He has been chairman of committees in several charitable bodies including the British Composer Awards and The Musicians Company.


  • Ivor Novello Awards - Best Original Music for Television 2013.
  • Royal Television Society - Best Original Music for Television 2013.
  • Royal Television Society - Best Title Music for Television 2004.
  • Royal Television Society - 3 further nominations
  • Concert Artists Guild of New York - Amcon Award 1984.
  • Cannes Film Festival - Best Artistic Achievement in a Feature Film - ‘Prick Up your Ears’ 1988.
  • Billboard - No. 1 Crossover album in the USA - Terror and Magnificence 1999.
  • Grammy nomination USA - Terror and Magnificence 1999.
  • Mercury Music Awards nomination - Terror and Magnificence 1999.

Publications, Outputs and Research

Current Work

  1. Faber Music - Director and Editor, The Faber Saxophone Edition.
  2. Guildhall School Research Project - The Bauhaus School of Art and Design 1919-1933 - an investigation into interdisciplinary Bauhaus educational methodologies and their application to tertiary musical education in the present day.

Published Work

  1. Faber Music - The Saxophone - The Art and Science of Playing and Performing (2017)

    Testimonials for The Saxophone:

    “John is a consummate musician and saxophonist, and all the expertise and experience gleaned from his forty plus years as a student of our instrument is encapsulated in this book. It is a must read for all professional and aspiring musicians - I will be learning from John for years to come
    Branford Marsalis - Three-time Grammy award-winning saxophonist and composer

    “It’s like having all the secrets of the saxophone in one book”
    Jess Gillam - Decca Classics recording artist

    “The Saxophone is a work of art, combining scientific research with a balanced and poetic presentation. John gives fantastic advice on learning methods which can be adapted to any age, level and need - musicians, amateur or professional will find the answers to all their questions here”
    Claude Delangle - Professor of Saxophone, CNSM, Paris

    “It’s a beast of a book, and will take prime position in my teaching studio for ever! A new perspective! Wonderful!”
    Snake Davis - Saxophonist with George Michael, Ray Charles, Culture Club, Tina Turner, Take That, Pet Shop Boys, Motorhead.

    “This is the most original approach I've ever seen - it's like Einstein's Grand Unified Theory”
    Ted Hegvik - Master Saxophonist, Seattle, USA (The Legacy of Rudy Weidoeft)

    “John's scholarly and artful scientific method is marked by formidable research and a passionate commitment to new and revolutionary techniques that open the door to a truly symbiotic relationship with your saxophone.”
    Tommy Smith - Saxophonist, composer and Director of Jazz, Royal Conservatoire of Scotland

    “John Harle’s saxophone sound has sailed through the largest concert halls in the world like the voice of a world-class singer - possibly as close as any player has come to the sound of the human voice. John generously reveals all about the saxophone in his book and offers a new direction in playing that will resound through generations to come. It is a work of genius from the genius of the saxophone, and is testimony to this great player’s unique place in the history his instrument”
    Ashley Stafford - singer and vocal coach

  2. Strange Attractor Publishing - Contributor, Child be Strange - a critical analysis of Elgar’s music as used in Penda’s Fen (Rudkin/Clarke/BBC1/BFI/2018)
  3. Ashgate Publications - Chapter,  Performing Minimal Music (The Minimal Music Handbook Ed. Potter/Ap Sion 2015)
  4. Canterbury Christ Church University - Lucian Freud, a Painted Life. An analysis of the musical techniques used in the score for the BBC2 documentary in relation to visual TV assemblages and Freud’s painting textures and colours. (2015)

Pedagogy (Selection)

Universal Saxophone Edition 1982-88 (Director and Editor)

  • Scales and Arpeggios
  • Easy Classical Studies
  • Classical Album
  • Bach - Sonata in G Minor (Arranger)
  • R. R. Bennett - Conversations (Editor)
  • Berio - Sequenza 9B (Editor)
  • Weill - The Threepenny Opera (Editor)

Boosey and Hawkes 1987-89 (Editor)

  • John Harle’s Saxophone Album
  • Rachmaninov - Vocalise (New edition/Editor)
  • Paganini Variations (New edition/Editor)

Durand (Orchestrator)

  • New orchestration of Debussy’s Saxophone Rhapsodie

Novello (Presenter)

  • Play the Saxophone with John Harle (Novello/DVD).


Recent Research Outputs

The Saxophone: The Art and Science of Playing and Performing

Harle, John. The Saxophone: The Art and Science of Playing and Performing. London: Faber Music, 2017.

Authored book