Rod Heard was born in Kurri Kurri in the Hunter Valley in 1954 and attended High School in Dungog at which time he was awarded a piano scholarship to the Newcastle Conservatorium of Music.
After High School he gained entry to the DipMusEd course at the New South Wales Conservatorium of Music where, along with education studies, he studied piano with George Humphries and music composition with Dr Martin Wesley-Smith. He contributed works and participated in many of the performances of the WATT group of Dr Martin Wesley-Smith (including Electronic Pencils) and The Seymour Group, led by Vincent Plush. In 1977, Rod Heard was awarded the Frank Hutchens prize for composition for his piece U235 which was subsequently premiered by The Seymour Group with Robert Constable and David Miller as pianists.
He has a background in a variety of musical genres, having played keyboard in numerous bands of all types, has worked with a number of prominent Australian performers as music director, and has a particular interest in jazz. His early musical activities have included his involvement as music director, orchestral arranger and conductor in the early years of the NSW Schools Spectacular, in the capacity of Music Director, Department of Community Relations, NSW Department of Education.
The discipline of arranging has become a central part of his musical activities, particularly in the three CD set of jazz-influenced arrangements for his project Jazz from Above based on a standard jazz quartet of piano, bass, guitar and drums. He has also had the opportunity to arrange for choirs in his capacity as director of a SATB choir and for recording projects such as Songs of Mercy and Grace – Songs of Geoff Bullock and You Are The Joy In Me by the adult choir and youth choir respectively of Narrabeen Baptist Church.
Original compositions have covered a number of styles including musique concrete pieces (Prelude III for T. S., Yes/No, Air-Cooled), music for orchestra, guitar, piano and percussion ensemble. The compositions are frequently motivated by social justice and environmental issues (Riritjingu, Aurukun, Manus, Forgotten Forest, Kuta), a perspective that grows naturally out of his deep commitment to the Christian faith.
Compositions by Rod Heard appear on
Australian pianist John Martin presents an entertaining range of music from 10 Australian composers.