Professor Karen Burland

Professor Karen Burland


I studied music as an undergraduate and music psychology postgraduate at the University of Sheffield and finished my PhD in January 2005. I was appointed to the staff at Leeds in 2005 and have previously been Head of the School of Music (2016–2021).

I am currently the Faculty Lead for Employability, Opportunity and Ambition (Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Cultures). I have published book chapters and journal articles focusing on musical development, musical identities, the transition between higher education and performance/non-performance professions, audience participation in live events, and the benefits of music technology in music therapy.

I am currently a University Student Education Fellow and am leading projects which explore student perceptions of, and engagement with, their employability.

I am an active performer and am principal clarinet with Hallam Sinfonia, and play baritone saxophone with Saxsational saxophone quartet.


  • Faculty Lead for Employability, Opportunity and Ambition (Arts, Humanities and Cultures)

Research interests

Musical identities

My current research activity focuses on musical identities: I argue that an individual's musical identity influences their musical behaviours and the choices they make about their future lives with music.

I have worked with Professor Luke Windsor (University of Leeds) to investigate how an individual's musical identity is presented in performance. I have also led a longitudinal study entitled 'The art of nu-jazz: investigating the process, experience and impact of collaborative studio projects' in which I have been exploring the musical identities of musicians creating and performing music which is based in a studio environment.
I am currently collaborating with Professor Dawn Bennet (Curtin University, Australia) on understanding musicians' employability and we are working towards developing a musical identity measure.

Musical development

My research in this area focuses specifically on the environmental conditions leading to childhood musical success and the professional development of musicians during their career transitions. In particular I am interested in how musicians cope with their transitions from training in Higher Education to entering a performance or non-performance based career.
I was awarded the prestigious Uchida Fellowship in 2002 which enabled me to conduct similar research in Japan for a short period of time. I have also investigated creativity and the influence of different group settings on the quality of children's group compositions. I am an Academic in Residence at Opera North where I am investigating the nature and impact of a professional career in music.

Music and wellbeing

I have been working with Dr Freya Bailes (University of Leeds) on a series of projects which aim to explore the ways in which music is used in therapeutic practice to benefit a wide range of communities. Using IGNITE funding from the Cultural Institute we have been working with the North Yorkshire Music Therapy Centre on a project entitled 'Mapping a Music Therapeutic Landscape in rural communities'; this has subsequently been extended to include West Yorkshire with the support of a University Laidlaw Scholar.
As well as mapping the provision in the Yorkshire area, we are interested in exploring the opportunities and challenges of collaborative approaches to understanding and measuring the impact of therapeutic music.

Audience experience

I have worked with Professor Stephanie Pitts (University of Sheffield) on a British Academy funded project investigating the roles and experiences of listeners at a chamber music festival.
We have subsequently worked on a project funded by the British Academy investigating audience experience at the Edinburgh Jazz and Blues festival; investigating identity, community and participation, which was followed up by a case study of a small, prestigious jazz club in Oxford – 'The Spin'.
We have an edited book called Coughing and Clapping: Investigating Audience Experience which was published with Ashgate in November 2014. I have also collaborated with Dr Alex McLean on a project investigating audiences for Live Coding events.

Music Therapy and Music Technology

I worked with Dr Wendy Magee (Temple University) on a project investigating music therapists use of music technology in therapeutic settings. The research explored the ways in which therapists are working with music technology and the ways in which it enhances the therapeutic process.
<h4>Research projects</h4> <p>Any research projects I'm currently working on will be listed below. Our list of all <a href="">research projects</a> allows you to view and search the full list of projects in the faculty.</p>


  • PhD in Music Psychology
  • MA Psychology of Music
  • PGCert Academic Practice
  • BMus Music

Professional memberships

  • SEMPRE Committee member
  • BJME Editorial Board

Student education

I mostly teach modules relating to the psychology of music, music education or music and wellbeing at undergraduate and postgraduate level. My teaching tends to be in the areas of musical development, music education, social psychology of music, and qualitative research methods; I also teach sessions relating to employability.

Research groups and institutes

  • Music, Science and Technology
  • PRIA

Current postgraduate researchers

<h4>Postgraduate research opportunities</h4> <p>We welcome enquiries from motivated and qualified applicants from all around the world who are interested in PhD study. Our <a href="">research opportunities</a> allow you to search for projects and scholarships.</p>