About Gillian Howell

I am a musician and educator, and a strong advocate for the inclusion of composition and improvisation in music education. I devise and lead music collaborations with diverse groups across Australia and overseas.

There are three specialised strands to my work – workshop leadership with professional orchestras (I’ve taken orchestral musicians into schools, hospitals, prisons, festivals); workshop residencies in post-conflict countries (such as Timor-Leste, Bosnia-Hercegovina and the Republic of Georgia, as part of a pycho-social support program), and with newly-arrived refugee and immigrant young people in Australia; and large-scale participatory music events.

I believe:

  • Music should be an active experience, rather than a passive one
  • Music draws us into powerful connections with others
  • Music learners need opportunities to create and perform their own music, because in doing so, they develop far deeper insights into the language of music and its possibilities, a sense of ownership over their music experiences and choices, greater personal satisfaction and delight, and deeper connections with their fellow musicians.
  • Music notation is an incredibly useful tool, but knowledge of it shouldn’t come before music-making experiences, and lack of knowledge needn’t be a barrier to participation.
  • Creative music-making (actively inventing, making, doing, composing, improvising,) is often the missing ingredient in many people’s music experiences.

In between short-term projects with orchestras and community groups, I teach in primary schools and tertiary institutions. I’m also a researcher, publishing regularly in international journals on topics such as the music perceptions of newly-arrived refugee and immigrant children, and working as a community musician in cross-cultural contexts, such as my work in Timor-Leste (East Timor) in 2010-11.

More on my website: www.gillianhowell.com.au

About the Music Work blog

Music Work started as a reflective tool for my Masters research in 2007. Early posts were focused on the links between English language learning and music, and the role that music can play in supporting settlement processes for young refugees.

More recently, the blog was my primary journal and written documentation of my Asialink artist residency in Timor-Leste (filed under ‘Timor’).

These days, it is the place where I share reflections about the different projects I lead, workshop ideas and strategies that may be of interest to other music educators, and documentation (photos, video, audio) of recent events. Throughout, the focus remains squarely on the importance of creativity and invention in music education and music experiences.

28 comments so far

  1. mohit on

    guess im just trying to say ur stuff seems interesting.
    my blog is a bit empty so u dont bother checking it out.
    I am trying to get seriously into music these days – m training to be a film editor.

  2. Lisa on

    Hi G,
    It’s always great to hear about what interesting projects you are working on.
    Take care of your fabulous, inspiring self x L

  3. Ines on

    G… I’ ve got the e-card and replied by e-mail!!Check your inbox!
    BIG BIG KISSES from Mostar!!!!

  4. Dosia McKay on

    I have enjoyed reading through your blog, especially the entries about composition. I will be back.

  5. Charles MacInnes on

    Dear G, Am working my way through your posts. You’ve inspired me to make my own – I’d be very happy if you would put a link on your Blogroll…
    See you at Birrarung Marr! C

  6. Lucas on

    Hi, I enjoyed your entry on John Cage project. I was recently thinking about a recording I heard from 2002, the 50th (?) anniversary of 4’33”. I think it was by the Melbourne Symphony? What was interesting about that performance was that the conductor allowed the audience to leave their mobile phones ON during the performance.
    Do you remember this? Did I dream it? Who was the soloist and conductor? I would love to solidify my memory…
    cheers Lucas

  7. musicwork on

    Hi Lucas,

    I’m not sure it was the MSO – I was working there are that time, and don’t remember it. Great idea though! Maybe it was another Australian/Melbourne orchestra… Sydney? Maybe someone will reprise the idea!

    Thanks for visiting the blog. G

  8. Sian on

    A very interesting and passionate site you have here. I’ve really enjoyed reading about your work, your enthusiasm and passion for making music interesting for the people you teach. I can understand those times when you feel frustrated by alal the conflicting barriers that any music teacher can face, although it makes all the difference to the people on the receiving end of good music education. Thank you for providing an interesting read.
    I am curious to know where you find your musical games as they are extremely useful…

  9. Bobbie on


    Love the site! I have been searching for more music education blogs for ages! Glad I finally stumbled across one!



  10. […] also came across an excellent blog by a Ozzie chap called ‘G‘. It has some cool resources for any music education practitioners and has inspired me to […]

  11. Vasco Pyjama on

    Hey Musicwork. I saw your comment on my blog. Was hoping to email you. What’s your email address? You could email me on vasco_pyjama at livejournal.com. Thanks mate.

  12. Shane Mc Kenna on

    Great stuff. I have made some animated graphic scores that are on vimeo. Please feel free to use and let me know how they went. Im working in Ireland as a music teacher and creating animated graphic scores for performance and workshops.

  13. Christopher Saunders on

    Hi! I’ll be in Melbourne later in the year to sing a lieder recital. I hope we can meet up? Your ideas on music education sound very interesting and I’d like to have a chat anyway about music and everything! Best wishes, Christopher.

  14. creativecomposers on

    Hi there! Your site is very interesting and helpful! I thoroughly enjoyed reading your entries. I have created “The Piano Staff” as a place where music professionals can connect with others to share anything that goes on in their music world! I encourage you to join and begin sharing right away. You can post anything to your page that you think would be a help or inspiration to other music teachers! It is very interesting to get to know other professionals in our industry and glean from the wealth of knowledge that comes from years of teaching! I think you would enjoy the site, and we definitely would enjoy hearing your perspective and getting to know your musical successes! Hope to see you as a member of the Piano Staff soon! To join, follow the link below!

  15. Sam Rogers on

    Just happened across your blog, and wondered if you are familiar with TaKeTiNa? Lots of connections to what you’re already up to. Tania Bosak will be doing a workshop in Melbourne soon, check it out! http://www.bosak.com.au/id2.html

  16. Christopher Saunders on

    I just thought I’d let you know that I’m doing a lieder recital this Sunday night at 7:30pm at the Richmond Uniting Church in Church Street, Richmond. Berta is playing the piano. Do come along if you’re free and bring anyone else who may be interested! Christopher Saunders.

  17. Christopher Saunders on

    I think I saw you in the audience at the lieder recital? I think that I recognised you from your photo. I’m sorry that I didn’t get to chat with you as I’d like to hear about your work with music and children, etc. I am down again in October- not sure of the dates yet- but we may be able to chat.

    Best wishes,


  18. Sofia on

    Hi There!
    Thank you verry much for all the time you’ve put in your blog.
    Lots of useful things.
    I’m working with children from 4 to 10 at the moment, I had little ones from 1 to 5 for 2 years aswell, and some times I have teens.
    I do with them what I call “Musical Expression”
    I’m not a Music Teacher, I’m facilitate instruments and ideas and try to pass to them some useful concepts.
    Sometimes with a mate we develope a tobic like human rights, or global acceptation,


  19. Sofia on

    And good luck throug the new year!
    I wish I could take notes an made out conclusions as you do!!

    • musicwork on

      Hi Sofia,

      thanks so much for the comments! I’m you’ve found some of my posts useful. I’ve been lucky to have access to some very inspiring workshop leaders (or their) books) which is where I’ve found a lot of these games. I find that one I start a new game, I gradually modify it each time, adjusting the way I teach it, or set it up, or what I focus on within in. So I like to share games that I’ve found particularly useful and flexible. Your work sounds interesting too – write about it! (the drawing of conclusions gets easier with practise, although it’s also true that some topics and ideas are particularly hard to write about. But I find the writing process helps me makes sense of things – so I recommend it to any reflective practitioner!)

  20. Ken Pendergrass on

    I’ve been following your blog for quite sometime and now I will be re-visiting many of your posts as I start at a new school that is comprised of many ESL/ELL students from East Africa, and families that speak Somali, Tigrigna, Arabic, as well as Vietnamese, Chinese and Spanish. I feel like everything I did in my previous schools have not prepared me for this adventure in music education. It’s overwhelming at times, but I’m grateful for this blog and your insight, reflection and resources. I think the scope of my own music education blog will be changing this school year. http://mystro2b.edublogs.org/

    • musicwork on

      Oh, I’ll look forward to reading your posts! Your school sounds like the kind of mix I have at Pelican PS. It’s a great environment in which to be a music teacher, I think. There are lots of possible entry points in with the kids, and it challenges us to really identify the ways in which music connects people and brings them in, and use these initially. I hope the year has got off to a good start for you.

  21. Mark McGregor on

    G —
    I was reminiscing about the European Mozart Academy this morning, and I happened to come across this blog. This is Mark (the Canadian flute player). Hope you’re well, and drop a line if you feel inclined. I notice there was an “Armenian Mafia” reunion of sorts — I’ll have to read more about it!

  22. Toby on

    Just a note to say thanks for the blog. As a beginning teacher, I consider this an important resource with valuable insights and practical, usable ideas. I only wish there were more blogs like this from generalist teachers. I am grateful for the sharing of music teaching experience and knowledge.

  23. Alison Armstrong on

    I’m a music teacher too and love that you’re sharing your practice online. My blog deals with similar ideas to yours, http://alisonsmusicblog.wordpress.com , maybe you could give it a look? By the way, I found you through Alex Ruthmann on twitter.

  24. Omaira on

    Hello there! Thank you for stopping by my blog. I am very intrigued by yours and the work that you do in terms of music education. I don’t have much of a background in music but as a homeschooler and the mother of a son who seems to love it, I am always looking for ideas and thoughts on the subject.

    I thought you might find this post interesting if you haven’t already heard of them.

    I look forward to more of your posts.

  25. maiable on

    I’m so excted to follow your blog! I agree whole-heartedly with your philosophies on music education and performance, and I am looking forward to learning more about your approach to music with immigrant and non-English speaking populations. I have several students who are recent immigrants to the United States, and I’m always looking for more effective ways to engage them with music. Thank you for your valuable insights!

  26. Gillian Howell on

    I’ve just added you to my blogroll Maia. Looking forward to reading more about your composition experiences with your students. More power to you!

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