There is a long-recognised history of the influence and inclusion of theatre in live popular music performance (Brown, 2014). The level of infiltration varies between artists and between sub-genres of the composite popular music sphere, but include the deliberate theatrics of metal acts such as Alice Cooper, Kiss, and Marilyn Manson; the use of alternative performance identities, varying in degrees of physical complexity and variance from the unmistakably observable personae of David Bowie and Lady Gaga, to the unpretentious physicality of Nina Simone where ‘part of the drama of [her] later years was watching the mask slip and the true wounded diva emerge, raging at the audience’ (Brown, 2014). The aspect of pivotal importance to each of these examples, and many more besides, is the personification of the performing musician, which has the potential to have significant implications on how the music is perceived by both the performing musicians and the viewing audience. Through a performance studies lens (Auslander, 2006), this presentation examines how the use of event schema contribute to the construction of a persona and identity which then becomes associated with a particular musical act. Extensive research with popular music performers, and students, resulted in the construction of a specifically designed gestural framework (Pipe, 2018), which identifies elements found to influence physically communicative responses in popular music performers; including the areas of costume, facial expressions, imitation, personality and posture. This framework is interwoven with relevant theoretical perspectives from the field of music education, and beyond, and explains how the areas of persona, gesture and interaction have been implemented into the popular music performance curriculum that is run at the University of West London.


Previously, Liz had a successful portfolio career in the areas of performance, business and education; working as a musical director, performer, teacher, examiner, and business owner. Liz is a Senior Lecturer, and the Academic Quality Lead for London College of Music, at the University of West London; teaching across a variety of popular music performance and music management degree courses, at all levels, including supervising students at PhD level.

Her research interests centre on communication in popular music performance, notably through the use of persona, interaction and gesture. The findings of her doctoral thesis, The Role of Gesture and Non-Verbal Communication in Popular Music Performance, and its Application to Curriculum and Pedagogy, have been integrated into the undergraduate popular music performance curriculum at LCM; allowing students the opportunity to develop their performance skills whilst obtaining a thorough academic understanding of this area of study.


  1. Hi Liz,

    This is a really interesting paper. I’m especially interested in the model you’ve developed for how persona relates to gestures and other aspects of the performance (on-screen around the 10-minute mark in the video). Have you written this up in detail elsewhere? I’d love to read more about it.

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