I'm a musician, academic and festival director. I studied piano with Ryszard Bakst at Chetham's School of Music. My main interest is improvised performance, including silent film accompaniments alongside more experimental work with moving images. I'm also interested in the pedagogy of improvisation and the dynamics of ensemble improvisation. 

My postgraduate research at University of Huddersfield Music Department focuses on improvised piano accompaniment of silent film, partly through a performance-as-research project and partly as historical musicology. I've recently been exploring the methods and meanings of improvisation in early twentieth-century silent film piano and organ accompaniments.  I presented some early findings at the 2017 British Silent Film Festival symposium and will be presenting the next stage of this project at the Royal Musical Association conference in Bristol in September 2018. 

I lead the undergraduate improvisation module at University of Huddersfield Music Department as well as various other teaching and marking duties within the department. I've led masterclasses and workshops at the universities of York and Huddersfield and for the British Forum for Ethnomusicology/Royal Musical Association Research Students Conference in January 2018.

I began my professional career as a musical director and keyboard player on musicals in the West End, Since my twenties, I've mixed working as a musician with work in theatre and opera as a director and producer. I've clocked up time with the National Theatre, Royal Shakespeare Company, Royal Opera, English National Opera, Cameron Mackintosh Limited, Opera North, Birmingham Hippodrome, BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, BBC Radio, Aurora, and City of London Sinfonia.  


In 2016 I founded the Yorkshire Silent Film Festival which is now the UK's largest celebration of silent film with live music and takes place each May in cinemas, theatres and village halls across Yorkshire. The 3rd Yorkshire Silent Film Festival opens on 8 May 2018 at City Varieties, Leeds.

I've performed for silent films at Hyde Park Picture House, City Varieties and Slung Low (Leeds), Showroom and Abbeydale Picture House (Sheffield), Hull Truck Theatre (with Hull Independent Cinema), Hebden Bridge Picture House, Stephen Joseph Theatre (Scarborough), Square Chapel (Halifax), and National Centre for Early Music. I've also performed three times with Leeds International Film Festival and taken part in the masterclasses at Le Giornate del Cinema Muto, Pordenone.

I'm a Clore Fellow and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and a member of the Royal Musical Association. 


Photographer: Valerio Greco

Jonathan Best at Le Giornate Del Cinema Muto, Pordenone 2016