Dr Jennifer MacRitchie

Department of Music

Senior Research Fellow

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Dr Jennifer MacRitchie
Department of Music
Jessop Building
Leavygreave Road
S3 7RD

With a background in both electrical engineering, music, and cognitive science, my research focuses on the acquisition and development of motor skills in instrumental performance, and how these can be used to promote health and wellbeing. I have conducted research in a variety of environments and I typically collaborate with academics across fields from engineering, music psychology, music therapy, physiotherapy and nursing, and external industry partners including those in aged care, music education, and local health.

I completed my undergraduate M.Eng in Electronics with Music at the University of Glasgow, going on to complete my PhD in the University of Glasgow's Science and Music Research group in 2011. I then moved on to a postdoctoral position at the Conservatorio della Svizzera Italiana in Lugano, Switzerland for three years, looking at translation of empirical research into impacts for students studying at the

I joined the MARCS Institute for Brain, Behaviour and Development at Western Sydney University in 2014 for a research lectureship in music perception and cognition, moving to Senior Research Fellow in Health and Wellbeing across the wider university in 2017. Here, my research moved from looking at expert performance to considering how these skills are acquired for novices, particularly looking into older adult health and wellbeing. I am currently an Adjunct Research Fellow at Western Sydney University, continuing research into older adult music education with colleagues, and co-supervision of PhD students. I have joined the Music Department at the University of Sheffield in 2021 to take up a UKRI Future Leaders Fellowship where I will be designing new musical technologies for older adults (particularly those living with dementia and their carers).

Research interests

My current research investigates how we can harness emerging technologies to boost opportunities for older adults living with dementia and their carers to interact with music. This links previous research demonstrating that older adults gain strong and positive social connections when interacting with music together, with the development and refinement of new technologies that will increase accessibility for those with cognitive impairments.

I work in collaboration with Prof Renee Timmers (Music Department, University of Sheffield), Prof Luc de Witte (The Hague University of Applied Sciences) and Prof Andrew McPherson (Imperial College, London). We are also joined in this research by Project Partner Bela (Augmented Instruments Ltd).

The research takes a multi-layered approach with aims including:

i) investigating the macrolevel of unmet needs of older adults living with dementia, i.e. what do they want to be able to do and/or create with music, how do they want a new tool to look, feel like, and respond

ii) determining the micro-level intricacies of design that will have an immense
impact on usage, enjoyment and consequently the users wellbeing

iii) using the knowledge generated to feed into the design of new resources
and tools for this population.

Using multidisciplinary methods (laboratory-controlled individual experiments, survey and group interactive workshops) to examine these interconnected levels, outcomes are channelled into the development of innovative new tools and assistive technologies which specifically enable older adults living with dementia to fully participate in interacting with music, both individually and in group activities.


Journal articles


  • MacRitchie J & Garrido S (2021) Ensemble participation in late adulthood In Timmers R, Daffern H & Bailes F (Ed.), Together in Music Coordination, Expression, Participation Oxford University Press RIS download Bibtex download
  • MacRitchie J (2021) Music and Healthy Aging In Thompson WF & Olsen KN (Ed.), The Science and Psychology of Music: From Beethoven at the Office to Beyoncé at the Gym (pp. 305-310). ABC-CLIO RIS download Bibtex download
  • MacRitchie J, Varlet M & Keller PE (2017) Embodied expression through entrainment and co-representation in musical ensemble performance, The Routledge Companion to Embodied Music Interaction (pp. 150-159). RIS download Bibtex download

Conference proceedings papers

  • MacRitchie J, Pigrem J & McPherson A (2023) Instructions Not Included: Dementia-Friendly Approaches to DMI Design. Proceedings of the International Conference on New Interfaces for Musical Expression RIS download Bibtex download
  • MacRitchie J & Milne AJ (2019) Evaluation of the learnability and playability of pitch layouts in new musical instruments. Proceedings of the 14th Sound and Music Computing Conference 2017, SMC 2017 (pp 450-457) RIS download Bibtex download
  • MacRitchie J, Buck B & Bailey NJ (2009) Visualising musical structure through performance gesture. Proceedings of the 10th International Society for Music Information Retrieval Conference, ISMIR 2009 (pp 237-242) RIS download Bibtex download



Research group

The research projects that I supervise look at how music education programs, interventions and features of musical instruments may impact the learner’s cognitive, social and emotional skills and benefits. These projects often have mixed methods including both quantitative and qualitative methods. I have also supervised many students in the past that examine features of musical performance and how we communicate with co-performers and audiences. These projects are a mixture of lab- based controlled studies and projects that are in more ecological environments out in live performances, arts organisations and health and social care contexts. I currently co-supervise two PhD students at the MARCS Institute for Brain, Behaviour and Development at Western Sydney University, where I hold an Adjunct Research Fellow position.


2021 UKRI Future Leaders Fellowship (£1,183,340) Designing new musical technologies for older adults' wellbeing

2019 Australian Research Council, Discovery Project ($408,000 AUD) Maintaining active minds and bodies through older adult music education

2018 NSW Dept of Communities and Justice, Liveable Communities Scheme ($29,900 AUD) “Interactive music making in residential aged care"

2016 Australian Association of Gerontology, RM Gibson Fund  ($5000 AUD) “Fingers TAP to the music” 

Teaching activities

Current PhD supervision

  •  Anita Connell. (2019-) Music instrument learning throughout ageing and cognitive impairment. Co-supervised with Dr Sandra Garrido, A/Prof Genevieve Steiner and Prof Caroline Smith
  • Siyao Cheng. (2020-) An exploration of different notation systems in healthy older adults’ music education. Co-supervised with Dr Andrew Milne, Prof Roger Dean and Dr Jose Hanham
  • Michael Neokleous, "Personalising dementia care through AI-enabled musical instrument training"

Past PhD supervision

  • Ian Daniel Colley (2019, principle supervisor Prof Peter Keller, co-supervisor Dr Manuel Varlet) Visual cues in musical synchronisation.
Professional activities and memberships

My previous work in Australia has involved partnerships with local arts organisations,
music teachers’ associations, local hospitals and residential aged-care providers. I
have also contributed to public engagement events such as Pint of Science AU. I
also currently serve as:

  • Associate Editor for Performance Science, Frontiers in Psychology