Ellen Kirkwood (born Port Macquarie, Australia, 1985) is a trumpeter, composer, bandleader and educator based in Sydney. She completed a Bachelor of Music, majoring in Jazz Performance, at the Sydney Conservatorium under many Australian Jazz greats including Mike Nock, Warwick Alder, Judy Bailey, Matt McMahon and Dale Barlow. In 2012 she won the Jann Rutherford Memorial Award for young women in Jazz, including a recording at ABC Studios, project funding, and performances in Sydney and Melbourne.
As a composer, Kirkwood is rapidly gaining recognition for her imaginative and daring style. Her debut album with sextet Captain Kirkwood, released in 2013 and named Theseus and the Minotaur, featured a 5 part narrated music-story suite which received glowing reviews and critical acclaim. She has since been commissioned to write several pieces for various ensembles, including works premiered at the 2015 and 2016 Sydney International Women's Jazz Festivals. Ellen's music has been performed by international jazz luminaries Lisa Parrott and Claire Daly (USA) and celebrated local artists including Sandy Evans, Paul Cutlan and Matthew Ottignon. Her compositions have been performed at Brisbane Festival, Parramasala, the Capital Jazz Project, the Sydney International Women's Jazz Festival, and Jazzgroove Summer Festival, and at top Sydney jazz venues including The Basement, Venue 505, Camelot Lounge, SIMA's Sound Lounge and Foundry616.
Ellen currently leads two successful groups of her own - Fat Yahoozah and The Mieville Project - which are vehicles for her compositions. She is also co-leader of the Sydney Women's Jazz Collective, and a member of several in-demand Sydney groups including Sirens Big Band, Mister Ott, On the Stoop and Pandora's Bag. Her performance highlights include playing with Ingrid and Christine Jensen at the 2016 Sydney International Women's Jazz Festival, Sirens Big Band's Trocadero event at Sydney Festival 2012 and 2013 and Woodford Folk Festival 2012/13's New Year's Eve Big Bang event alongside Greg Sheehan, Ben Walsh and other acclaimed Australian musicians.
In 2016 Ellen received an Australia Council of the Arts grant for a composition mentorship with highly esteemed Australian composer and pianist Barney McAll. During the mentorship she wrote a 55 minute suite for Sirens Big Band, entitled "[A]part" which features some of Australia's most highly acclaimed musicians; Andrea Keller, Gian Slater and Sandy Evans. She was also a 2017 finalist for the prestigious Freedman Jazz Fellowship.