May Howlett

May Howlett, born in Subiaco, WA, in 1931, won various scholarships, including a secondary studentship to study Music at Melbourne University Conservatorium (majoring in Pianoforte and Singing), graduating in 1954 with a Bachelor of Music, and obtaining a Diploma of Education the following year.

She studied composition with Larry Sitsky, toured with Barry Humphries, read poetry for the ABC and wrote her own cabarets as a single parent, to make ends meet.

Howlett received her first commission in 1971, for a cantata to be performed at the inaugural concert of the Canberra New Music Society. In 1987 another choral piece, Ashes of Roses, was performed by Gaudeamus on its Bicentennial tour. The live recording was broadcast repeatedly on 2MBS-FM.

In 2006, Howlett graduated with a MA in Music from Macquarie University with a thesis entitled 'The Production of a Contemporary Chamber Opera', which was accompanied by a revised score, with piano reduction and workshop recording of her chamber opera, The Boy Who Wasn't There. 

Whilst Howlett’s  style is somewhat influenced by the works of the French Impressionists, she seeks to explore, in an unprogrammed way, divergences of key and texture occurring where a more comfortable solution is bypassed, to produce a different outcome. Larry Sitsky, writing of her music in his Australian Chamber Music collection said, “There’s always a sting in the tail.”

Compositions by May Howlett appear on

Rhythms of Green and Gold

Australian pianist John Martin presents an entertaining range of music from 10 Australian composers.