My musical journey began when I was about three years old. At the time my Grandma was undertaking her AMEB music theory exams and learning contemporary organ through the Spinnet Organ Course. The first music that I remember hearing was when I was sitting in my booster seat in her car while she played Handel's Water Music which she was studying for her music theory exams. As I got a bit older my Grandma taught me music on her four electric organ I constantly raided her record collection, which contained everything from Grieg's Piano Concerto, famous orchestral works, Count Basie and much more. I soon could outplay her and was shipped off to piano teachers (most of which were uninspiring and had little knowledge of music, but after a bad run I found some good people to learn from). I was soon playing classical music, jazz piano, arranging music and learning orchestration.
Later on I studied piano with Stephanie McCallum and Christine Logan (the best piano teacher and insightful musician I have ever met). I receieved 1st Class Honours degree in music for my thesis "The Arranging and Orchestration Techniques of Maestro Tommy Tycho, 1973-1993," and have subsequently awarded an Australian Post-Graduate Award to undertake PhD research on the same topic, which I have just completed.
For the past several years I have been active as a pianist (classical and jazz), arranger, composer and writer within a diverse range of fields. He has been lecturing and tutoring at the University of Sydney in the areas of advanced analysis, analysis, film music, music journalism, arranging, contemporary music and on occasion music performance.
My PhD is a study of the life and music of Maestro Tommy Tycho within the context of the Australian music and entertainment industry. I have presented many conference papers on this topic, and is currently preparing a lecture-recital examining the history and performance of Tommy Tycho's "Sydney Suite," composed for solo piano. In 2014 Samuel appeared as a special guest on a two-part special of ABC Radio Nationals show "Rare Collections" where he investigated the life of Tommy Tycho through his many recordings. In 2016 I curated an interactive library display at the University of Sydney Conservatorium of Music using images, scores, sheet music and video footage to create a biographical portrait of Tycho's life.
In 2015 I was fortunate enough to published Tommy Tycho's biographical entry in the prestigious Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians. As well as being a full-time musician I have a strong interest in writing ABOUT music and I have written over 200 feature articles and interviewed Renee Fleming, Maxim Vengerov, Katie Noonan, Simon Tedeschi, and the master of interviewing : Andrew Ford. I also wrote an extended feature profile on prolific jazz trombonist and composer Dave Panichi for the American based music publication "Music & Literature," and participated in AYO's 2015 Music Camp as part of the Words About Music program. Since then, I have been giving pre-concert talks for Grevillea Ensemble, Nexas Saxophone Quartet and and from 2016-2018 wrote program notes and articles for Omega Ensemble. Samuel also wrote liner notes for Divergence Jazz Orchestra's second CD "Fake It Until You Make It", Omega's debut album "Munro.Mozart.Palmer," and Nexas Quartet's debut album "Current."
In 2016 I composed "Midnight Stage" for tenor saxophone and piano, which was commissioned by saxophonist Nathan Henshaw. I was the pianist and arranger for Willoughby Theatre Company's large-scale Gershwin Spectacular production which featured a full orchestra and in 2018 I return to work with Willoughby Theatre Co. as rehearsal and orchestral pianist for their Mame in Concert production.
In the Summer of 2017 I was fortunate enough to be awarded a position in the Summer Scholar's program at the National Library of Australia where he spent six weeks investigating the arrangements and music used by Geoff Harvey on the Midday Show. During my time there I gave a piano recital featuring some of the music he had unearthed (and was the first summer scholar in the history of the program to give a music performance).
As well as arranging, composing, playing piano and doing many other music related things I have recently formed the Samuel Cottell Orchestra, a Sydney-based orchestra specialising in 'Pops' music arrangements and light classical works.