Richard Vella’s diverse output includes compositions for orchestra, large ensemble, choir, film, chamber music, burlesque cabaret, music theatre, contemporary opera, site-specific performances, and popular music genres. Much of his music has been performed and recorded nationally and internationally. His film credits include Light Years, Parklands, and Renzo Piano: piece by piece for which he won the 1999 Australian Screen Composer’s Award for best music for a documentary. His feature film music score Travelling Light (2003) received the nomination for “Best Music for a Feature Film” by the Australian Film Institute. Vella is founding artistic director of Calculated Risks Opera Productions, who have premiered three of his major performance works, Tales of Love (1991/2002), The Last Supper (1993), and Bodysongs: the Fatman Tour (1998).
Richard Vella has held many professorial consultative positions with various universities in Australia. From 2007 to 2019, he was Chair and Professor of Music at the University of Newcastle Conservatorium of Music. From 2008 to 2013, he was also Head of the School of Creative Arts at the University of Newcastle. He is currently adjunct Professor of Music with the Universities of Newcastle and Western Australia.
Publications discussing his performance work are Arias: Recent Australian Music Theatre, Redhouse Editions, 1997; The Oxford Dictionary of Australian Music, Oxford University Press, 1998; and The Currency Companion to Music and Dance in Australia, Currency House, 2003. His book Musical Environments: A Manual for Listening, Improvising and Composing, originally published by Currency Press (2000), has become a recognised text for secondary and tertiary music courses throughout Australia. In 2003, an international edition of this book entitled Sounds in Space Sounds in Time was published by Boosey and Hawkes, U.K. In 2021, he co-authored the book The Music Export Business: Born Global, published by Routledge, U.K.
Richard Vella directed the interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary research group Collaborative Environments for Creative Arts Research from 2013 to 2019. The research activities in CECAR embrace music and phenomenology, performance, composition, music production, interactive technologies, artscience intersections, and the music industry. He has supervised and currently supervises a wide range of Ph.D. students in music, performance, composition, artscience, music phenomenology, music technology, and interdisciplinary arts practice. Vella has received awards for excellence in postgraduate supervision from Queensland University of Technology and the University of Newcastle.