PETER DASENT is a composer, songwriter, pianist and music arranger/director.
He has composed music for film and television (including three early Peter Jackson films), led his own ensemble The Umbrellas for 30 years, written songs for kids (Justine Clarke’s platinum-selling children’s albums) and has played piano for the long-running ABC-TV children’s show Play School since 2000.
Peter was born in Wellington, New Zealand in 1954 and learned piano from age 8, discovering the Beatles and other classic sixties pop groups and the music of his father’s collection of jazz 78’s along the way.
He studied music briefly at Victoria University of Wellington and was a founder member of the bands Spats (1977-79) and The Crocodiles (1980). Two other members of these bands, Tony Backhouse and Fane Flaws, were to become long-time friends and musical collaborators, along with lyricist Arthur Baysting.
In 1981 Peter moved to Sydney, where he studied for the Associate Diploma in Jazz Studies at the NSW Conservatorium of Music . Encouraged by then course director Don Burrows, Peter formed The Umbrellas in 1985. The band released three albums between 1986 and 1991, and from 1992-2002 toured for the Musica Viva In Schools program, performing throughout NSW and on tours to Fiji and Singapore.
Peter began his screen composition career in 1989 with Peter Jackson’s second film, the Muppets send-up splatter epic Meet The Feebles. He subsequently scored two more Peter Jackson films, Braindead (aka Dead Alive outside Australasia) and the Oscar-nominated Heavenly Creatures.
During the 90s Peter was in demand as a composer for television, concentrating mainly on documentaries and children’s drama.
2000 to present
His involvement in children’s music began in 2000 with The Underwatermelon Man, a book of absurd poems by Fane Flaws and Arthur Baysting, illustrated by Fane, and set to music by Fane and Peter for an accompanying CD. Singers included Neil and Tim Finn, Renee Geyer, Don McGlashan, Bic Runga, Dave Dobbyn and Jenny Morris.
In 2000 Peter was asked to fill in as pianist on ABC-TV’s PlaySchool, and he has been the regular PlaySchool pianist ever since, writing numerous original songs and producing 3 CDs. In 2005 he produced the first of PlaySchool presenter Justine Clarke’s 3 best selling CDs “I Like To Sing”, and a fourth album, Pyjama Jam, was released in October 2015. Nearly all the songs on these albums were written by Peter with Arthur Baysting.
In 2003 Peter was awarded a Churchill Fellowship to research his long-time interest in the music Italian composer Nino Rota wrote for the films of Federico Fellini. He travelled to the US to meet the composer's daughter and to Italy where he was given access to the Rota archive at the Fondazione Cini in Venice.
He lectures regularly on Rota's Fellini scores at AFTRS in Sydney.
In 2013 Peter recorded a CD of original music for solo piano at the legendary Abbey Road Studio in London. “Songs For Solo Piano” was released on November 6 2015.
In 2015 The Umbrellas released their first album of original music in 20 years "Lounge Suite Tango", and in 2016 "Bravo Nino Rota" was re-released with a new cover and booklet.