Our Committee

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MMRN was established by four M4C (Midlands4Cities)-funded PhD students each sharing an enthusiasm for expanding communication and collaboration across a variety of music-related topics, institutions and research contexts. You can find out more about our steering committee through their profiles below.

Daniel Johnson - Director


I’m a fifth year, part-time history PhD student at the University of Leicester. I am studying the intellectual context and content of the hymns of Isaac Watts (1674-1748). Alongside my studies, I am Head of Academic Development at Nexus ICA, where I lecture on a variety of undergraduate and postgraduate courses. I achieved a first class degree in Popular Music and Music Technology at the University of Derby, before completing my Masters of Research in Theology at the University of Nottingham, where I studied Isaac Watts’ interpretation of the psalms. I am also a visiting lecturer for the London School of Theology. I’m married to Rosanna and we have four young children.


I worked for many years as a professional musician. While my own work and experience largely concentrates on the role of music within the Christian tradition, I enjoy studying the way different societies use music. The MMRN is an exciting environment in which I can both share my own research and learn from others. I’m looking forward to the networking opportunities the MMRN will provide.

Caroline Ridler - Website Manager

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I'm a third-year M4C-funded PhD researcher at the University of Nottingham in the department of Russian and Slavonic studies. My research focusses on the Soviet rock musician Viktor Tsoi who was a youth icon for perestroika-era youth, and remains a cult icon in the former Soviet space to the present day. Through study of his life and legacy, I am exploring the huge cultural and political shifts which occurred during glasnost and perestroika. My research interests include popular music studies, youth culture, subcultures and marginality, and the cultural politics of the late Soviet Union.

Nicholas Ong - Podcast Organiser

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I am a MSt in Music (Musicology) graduate of the University of Oxford where my research focussed on German idealism in the music criticism of nineteenth-century Russia. Whilst completing my master's, I co-produced the podcast Crafting Musical Lives (https://spoti.fi/3Aggj1N) which explored the life-writing process of musical figures. Prior to my postgraduate studies, I graduated from the University of Nottingham with a BA (First Class) in Music and was awarded the Philip Weller Dissertation Prize for my dissertation on the cosmopolitan national identity in music of Singapore.


Before moving to the UK (from Singapore), I completed my national service as a trumpeter in the Singapore Armed Forces Band. Since then, my music-making activity mainly involves singing in choirs. Outside of music, I enjoy – like many others – visiting cathedrals. I am currently on a (not-so-absolute) hiatus from academia, working in administration at the University of Lincoln Students' Union.

Natalie Grace - Events and Publicity Officer

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I am a History PhD student at the University of Nottingham, funded by the Midlands4Cities Doctoral Training Partnership and currently in the writing-up stage. My thesis is a comparative study of discourses about witchcraft in early modern Germany and England. It incorporates a range of printed sources including sermons, news reports, and news ballads; I am particularly interested in exploring sources where textual, visual, and oral forms of communication interacted.

During my PhD I have been involved in several academic events and groups, including organising the Midlands4Cities Digital Research Festival (2020), running the UoN History Postgraduate Seminars (Sept 2019 – June 2021), and working as a Publicity Officer for the Institute of Historical Research History Lab (Sept 2020 – July 2021). While my research does not directly incorporate music, I always listen to music while I research and write, particularly film and TV soundtracks. I enjoy singing and have been a member of several choirs over the years, including the University Choir at UoN. I am looking forward to organising events for MMRN and fostering new connections for Music researchers. 

Lee Griffiths - Events and Publicity Officer

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I graduated with a BMus (Hons) in Jazz Saxophone from the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire in 2016 and have performed around the UK and Europe with groups such as the Rachel Musson Ensemble and Birmingham Improvisers Orchestra. I was awarded an MA in Media and Cultural Studies from Birmingham City University where I am currently studying for an M4C-funded PhD exploring the intra-actions between words and music in jazz practices. My research explores my own practice as an improvising musician and broader issues of meaning construction in jazz practices, by drawing on contemporary philosophical frameworks.