John Habron-James

Photo of John Habron-James

Head of Music, Health and Wellbeing

BA, MA (Music Composition), PhD, MA (Music Therapy), FHEA

Email: [email protected]

  • Leads a team of 12 staff in the RNCM’s Student Health and Wellbeing Hub.
  • Teaches undergraduate and masters modules.
  • Supervises research projects from undergraduate to post-doctoral level.
  • Undertakes and leads collaborative and individual research projects.
  • Leads the RNCM’s Doctoral Pathway in Music Education.
  • Member of RNCM’s Research and Knowledge Exchange Committee; Research Degrees Committee; Research Ethics Committee (Deputy Chair); Internal panel for NWCDTP funding applications; REF Working Group.
  • Board member of Greater Manchester Universities’ Student Mental Health Service.
  • Represents the RNCM at: Healthy Conservatoires; Collaborative Working Forum – Integrated Care Partnership and GM Universities; University of Manchester Chaplaincy Network.

Having trained as a composer and a music therapist, Professor John Habron-James has gradually moved into transdisciplinary research at the intersection of music education, music therapy, and the medical/health humanities. From 2009 to 2016, he was Senior Lecturer in Music at Coventry University and in 2017 joined the RNCM as its first Head of Music Education. In 2021, he became the College’s Head of Music, Health and Wellbeing. Along with a group of colleagues, John founded the International Conference of Dalcroze Studies (ICDS) in 2012 and chaired its Scientific Committee until 2023. He is currently Extraordinary Researcher in the MASARA (Musical Arts in South Africa: Resources and Applications) research entity at North-West University, Potchefstroom, South Africa (2018-2025).

Current and Future Research

John’s research focuses on the relationships between music and movement, and how – as a combined resource – these can help people of all ages and abilities to learn, feel better and flourish. In particular, he investigates the ways participants have engaged with and developed Dalcroze practice historically and how it is applied today.

A major recent project (2015-2020) investigated spiritual experiences in Dalcroze education and led to a series of five journal articles, co-authored with Professor Liesl van der Merwe, North-West University, Potchefstroom, South Africa.

Current research includes:

  • A book, co-edited with Professor Emerita Selma Landen Odom (York University, Toronto) and Dr Johanna Laakkonen (Theatre Museum, Helsinki), and titled Navigating Landscapes of Dalcroze Practice: Music and Movement in Pedagogy, Therapy, and Performance. Under contract with Boydell & Brewer.
  • A book with Marlies Muijzers, presenting a collaborative autoethnography about her experiences of chronic pain and disability, especially in relation to Dalcroze teacher training and contemporary dance.
  • A book on the pioneer music therapist Priscilla Barclay (1905-1994). A Wellcome Trust Medical Humanities grant (2015-16) and a Gladstone Library Scholarship (2016) helped to develop this research in the initial stages, including archival work in the UK, USA and Switzerland.
  • A book presenting the findings of oral history interviews with 17 graduates from the British Dalcroze training programmes, 1945-1960 (first output was a conference paper in summer 2019).

Research Areas

Music for health, including music therapy

Music education (history, theory, practice, philosophy)

Music and movement / somatics

Dalcroze Eurhythmics

External Research Roles

  • Extraordinary Researcher in the Musical Arts in South Africa: Resources and Applications (MASARA) research entity, North-West University, Potchefstroom, South Africa (2018-2025).
  • Scientific Committee Chair, International Conference of Dalcroze Studies (2012-2023).
  • Deputy Institutional Representative (RNCM) on the CUK Research Ethics Committee (2017-2022).
  • Member editorial boards: International Journal of Music Education (2016-2022), Journal of Dance and Somatic Practices (2013-2021).
  • Member: International Society for Music Education (ISME); Society for Education, Music and Psychology Research (SEMPRE); British Association for Music Therapy (BAMT); Dalcroze UK; Dalcroze Society of America (DSA); Spirituality and Music Education (SAME) network; Medecine de la Personne.

Research Funding

John’s research has been funded by several bodies, including the RNCM, Manchester Camerata, the Music Therapy Charity, the Higher Education Academy, the Society for Education and Music Psychology Research (SEMPRE), the Wellcome Trust, Coventry University, the Institut Jaques-Dalcroze, Dalcroze UK, the International Federation of Eurhythmics Teachers (FIER), the Association des Amis de Jaques-Dalcroze (AAJD), Fondation Émile Jaques-Dalcroze (FEJD) and Gladstone’s Library.

Undergraduate Teaching

  • Music in Context 2 (Music, Health and Wellbeing)
  • What is Music Pedagogy?
  • Music Education Pathway Elective
  • Music for Health

Postgraduate Teaching

  • Research Methods in Music Education
  • Dalcroze in Context
  • Masters research projects (major / minor dissertation)

Research Supervision

I welcome enquiries from individuals wishing to research into music education or music and health / wellbeing at MPhil or PhD level. My interests include the theory, practice, and history of music education and music therapy; practices of music and movement; Dalcroze Eurhythmics; lived experiences; oral history; women’s history.

PhD supervisees (RNCM)

Joanna Sear, Creating a prospective curriculum for the training of Popular Music singing teachers (Principal Supervisor).

Ellen Casey, The meaning of Alexander Technique for musicians: An ethnographically informed study of learning and application in the context of musical practice (Principal Supervisor).

Eleanor Guénault, The influence of positive role models on professional female brass players (Principal Supervisor, RNCM-funded).

Naomi Kayayan, Exploring the dynamics of dynamic teaching: A qualitative study into pedagogical practices in a conservatoire piano department (First Supervisor).

Rosalind Ridout, A musician moving with the earth: An autoethnographic exploration of how Dalcroze Eurhythmics shapes a musician’s eco-literate performance and teaching practice (Principal Supervisor, RNCM-funded).

Completed supervisions

Petra Jerling (North-West University, South Africa), Music and Imagery (MI) sessions during COVID-19: The lived experiences of a music therapist and five music teachers (co-promoter).

Jennie Hartley, Using group improvisation and imaginative listening to nurture creative autonomy in A-level music students: Teaching composition for examination purposes in England (Principal Supervisor, AHRC-funded via the NWCDTP).

Joy Meyer (North-West University, South Africa), Moving towards social cohesion through a Dalcroze-inspired approach: A multisite case study (Co-Supervisor).

David Cane, Representations and intersections of queerness and disability in the stage works of Benjamin Britten (Co-Supervisor, AHRC-funded via the NWCDTP).

Keith Phillips (Postdoctoral Research Assistant): Work-integrated learning in the music academy (WILMA); collaborative project between RNCM and CEMPE, Norwegian Academy of Music (2019-2021). (Supervisor, CEMPE-funded)

Jo-Yee Cheung (PhD, RNCM): The role of parents in the development of metacognition in children during musical learning, 2021 (First Supervisor).

Dale Ware (Visiting Scholar Fellowship, RNCM): The effects of music on the patient experience when undergoing endoscopic procedures, June-November 2019 (Supervisor, NHS-funded).



Selected Outputs

Written outputs

Edited volumes:

Habron-James, J., Laakkonen, J., & Odom, S. L. (eds.) (in preparation). Navigating landscapes of Dalcroze practice: Music and movement in pedagogy, performance, and therapy. Boydell & Brewer.

Book chapters:

Habron-James, J. (in preparation). Priscilla Barclay’s practice: Transforming Dalcroze Eurhythmics at St Lawrence’s Hospital, England. In J. Habron-James, J. Laakkonen & S. L. Odom (eds.) Navigating landscapes of Dalcroze practice: Music and movement in pedagogy, performance and therapy. Boydell & Brewer.

Habron-James, J., & Odom, S. L. (in preparation). Health and wellbeing in contexts of Dalcroze practice: Education, therapy, and medicine. In J. Habron-James, J. Laakkonen & S. L. Odom (eds.) Navigating landscapes of Dalcroze practice: Music and movement in pedagogy, performance, and therapy. Boydell & Brewer.

Habron-James, J., Odom, S. L., & Laakkonen, J. (in preparation). ‘Introduction: Writing Histories of Dalcroze Practice.’ In In J. Habron-James, J. Laakkonen & S. L. Odom (eds.) Navigating landscapes of Dalcroze practice: Music and movement in pedagogy, performance, and therapy. Boydell & Brewer.

Journal articles:

Habron-James, J. (2024). Music and movement for flourishing: Using the PERMA model of well-being to understand participants’ experiences of Dalcroze Eurhythmics. International Journal of Education and the Arts, 24(si2.6).

Habron, J., & Van der Merwe, L. (2020). Stories students tell about their lived experiences of spirituality in the Dalcroze class. British Journal of Music Education, 37(2), 125-139.

Van der Merwe, L., & Habron, J. (2020). Exploring lived experiences of spirituality amongst five Dalcroze teachers. Psychology of Music, 48(2), 163-181. [first published online 2018]

Ridout, R., & Habron, J. (2020). Three flute players’ lived experiences of Dalcroze Eurhythmics in preparing contemporary music for performance. Frontiers in Education: Educational Psychology, 5.

Van der Merwe, L., & Habron, J. (2019). The Dalcroze diamond: A theory of spiritual experiences in Dalcroze Eurhythmics. Music Education Research, 21(4), 426-440.

Habron, J., & Van der Merwe, L. (2017). A conceptual study of spirituality in selected writings of Émile Jaques-Dalcroze. International Journal of Music Education, 35(2), 175-188.

Habron, J. (ed.) (2016). Approaches: An Interdisciplinary Journal for Music Therapy, 8(2), Special issue on Dalcroze Eurhythmics in music therapy and special music education.

Greenhead, K., Habron, J., & Mathieu, L. (2016). Dalcroze Eurhythmics: Bridging the gap between the academic and practical through creative teaching and learning. In E. Haddon & P. Burnard (eds) Creative Teaching for Creative Learning in Higher Music Education. Routledge, 211-226.

Van der Merwe, L., & Habron, J. (2015). A conceptual model of spirituality in music education. Journal of Research in Music Education, 63(1), 47-69.

Greenhead, K., & Habron, J. (2015). The touch of sound: Dalcroze Eurhythmics as a somatic practice. Journal of Dance and Somatic Practices, 7(1), 93-112.

Habron, J. (2014). ‘Through music and into music’ – through music and into wellbeing: Dalcroze Eurhythmics as Music Therapy. The Journal for Transdisciplinary Research in Southern Africa. Special Edition, 10(2), 90-110.

Professional Activity

As a leader in the transdisciplinary field of Dalcroze Studies, John helps to galvanise an international community of scholars, practitioners and artists to develop research collaborations, publish widely and increase its impact. He chaired the Scientific Committee of the International Conference of Dalcroze Studies (ICDS) for its first six events: Coventry University, UK, 2013; University of Music and Performing Arts Vienna, Austria, 2015; Université Laval, Quebec City, Canada, 2017; Karol Szymanowski Academy of Music, Katowice, Poland, 2019; online, 2021; Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, USA, 2023. He has convened related events, such as ‘Dalcroze Eurhythmics: Moving through the Archive’, a symposium at the National Resource Centre for Dance, University of Surrey (2015).

John has collaborated with practitioners and researchers in various disciplines, leading to a variety of outputs and publications, including research evaluations of innovative practice in the fields of music education, community music and music therapy. He publishes widely (see ‘Research Outputs’ for a selection of recent publications).

Active as a peer reviewer, John was Editorial Board member for the International Journal of Music Education (2016-2022) and Journal of Dance and Somatic Practices (2013-2022), and was Advisory Editorial Board member for Approaches: An Interdisciplinary Journal for Music Therapy (2015-2019). He reviews for many other journals, as well as for statutory bodies. In demand as a lecturer, John has been invited to teach in Austria, Canada, Colombia, Ireland, Latvia, Poland, South Africa and Spain.