Brian Howard studied for his Bachelor of Music degree at the University of Sydney with Peter Sculthorpe and Bernard Rands and for his Master of Music degree at the University of Adelaide with Richard Meale.
He joined the music staff of The Australian Opera as a repetiteur in 1974 before continuing his studies in Europe. He studied conducting with Michael Gielen at the Musik-Akademie der Stadt Basel and composition with Peter Maxwell Davies at Montepulciano and attended the Darmstadt composition studio.
In 1977 he joined the staff of the Faculty of Music at the University of Melbourne teaching composition and twentieth century music. His first major orchestral works Il Tramonto della Luna and The Temple of the Golden Pavilion and his first opera, Inner Voices for the Victoria State Opera, come from this time. He received his Doctor of Music degree from the University of Melbourne.
After a number of years in Melbourne he returned to Europe as Composer-in-Residence to the Royal Danish Ballet and to residencies at the Cite Internationale des Arts in Paris and the Eduard van Beinum Foundation in The Netherlands. He returned to Australia to write A Fringe of Leaves for the opening of the Melbourne Concert Hall and his second opera, Metamorphosis for the Victoria State Opera, and to teach at the Universities of Sydney and New South Wales.
He was commissioned to write three works for the bicentenary of Australia in 1988: Whitsunday for The Australian Opera, Wildbird Dreaming for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and The Celestial Mirror for the West Australian Ballet.
Brian Howard was appointed Musical Director of the West Australian Ballet in 1983, Head of Music at the WA Conservatorium in 1985 and Dean in 1992. In 1988 he was awarded the Don Banks Fellowship in Composition. In 1991 he was Visiting Professor at Conservatoire National Superieur de Musique in Lyon, France and in 1996 he was Visiting Professor at the Royal Academy of Music in London.
In 1997 he was appointed President of Lasalle College of the Arts in Singapore where he remained for six years.
Since leaving Singapore, Brian Howard has been working full-time as a composer. He completed his fifth opera Sophia’s Child in 2005 and since then has been working on a series of orchestral and ensemble works. In 2006 he was a Peggy Glanville-Hicks Fellow in Sydney and in 2007 he returned to Paris for another residency at the Cite Internationale des Arts.
Brian Howard’s compositions include five operas, orchestral works, ballets, chamber music and choral music. He has been commissioned by major organisations including the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (with performances by the Adelaide, Sydney, Melbourne, Tasmanian and West Australian Symphony Orchestras), Symphony Australia (with performances by The Queensland Orchestra), Victoria State Opera, The Australian Opera, Opera Factory Zurich, West Australian Ballet, Musica Viva Australia, the Festival of Perth and the Festival of Sydney.
Brian Howard was appointed Composer-in-Residence to The Queensland Orchestra for the 2008 season with Gravity’s Rainbow and Earthshine premiered by the orchestra. From 2008 to 2010 he was Adjunct Professor of Composition at Queensland Conservatorium, Griffith University.
Recent works include Last Blues for violin, four saxophones and two percussion, Nocturnes for the King of Naples for two cellos and orchestra, Starburst for orchestra, Our Lady of the Flowers for violin and orchestra and Voyages 1-8 for solo saxophone. Voyages 1-8 received its first performance in July 2012 in St. Andrews, Scotland by James Nightingale and Friends.
In 2014 Brian Howard completed Voyage through radiant stars for an ensemble of 18 instruments which was premiered at the Aurora Festival in Sydney and his first string quartet, Alchemy.
In May 2015 his Full Fathom Five for an ensemble of 15 instruments was premiered at the Canberra International Music Festival. Recent works include Forever and ever, his second string quartet, and Desires Ingrained for solo violin.