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Claire Cowan

Composer, Performer

Born: 1983 Website  


Claire Cowan is a composer and performer based in Auckland. She studied composition at Auckland University and since graduating with Honours in 2006, has pursued a career in music for concert, film and theatre. Claire is an experienced orchestrator and symphonic writer, having worked with many of New Zealand’s leading orchestras.

Cowan has collaborated on scores for Red leap theatre, the Auckland Theatre Company, Touch Compass, and Thread Theatre’s debut production of ‘The Keepers’ where her composition was nominated for a Chapman Trip award for best original music. Her TV Scoring credits include “What Really Happened: Waitangi”, “Billy” and “What Really Happened: The Women’s Vote.” In 2015 Claire completed a 6 part mini-series score “Hillary” for TVNZ screened mid 2016 and continues work on the NZ animated feature “Shirley and the Hungary Bear” (Yukfoo.)

Cowan’s music has been performed by soloists and ensembles throughout the USA, New Zealand, Europe, Japan and Australia. Her film music has been heard in the New Zealand International Film Festival and many overseas festivals. Her piano trio ‘Subtle Dances’ co-commissioned by NZTrio and Chamber Music NZ, remains their most performed NZ Commission. She has a special interest in flamenco music and dance, and has twice collaborated with the Spanish Flamenco artist Isabel Rivera Cuenca, for performances throughout NZ.

As an orchestral arranger she has worked with many of NZ’s leading pop talent including Julia Deans, Anna Coddington, Anika Moa, Dave Dobbyn, The Modern Maori Quartet, Tama Waipara, The Adults, Jon Toogood, Ria Hall, and Bic Runga.

Her own performance project, ‘The Blackbird Ensemble’ (25 piece orchestra) have performed to sold out crowds since its inception in 2010, covering rarely performed classical and popular music by living composers. In 2014 the ensemble received a grant to develop a groundbreaking new show ‘The Afterlife’ which combines devised physical theatre with experimental music and classical musicians. In 2015 she joined the band SJD as its keyboard player and backing vocalist. In 2015–2016 Claire was Composer-in-Residence with Orchestra Wellington, and created a new Violin concerto for Amalia Hall. In 2017 she is working on three new Blackbird Ensemble productions, and a new telefeature score for Great Southern Pictures.

Claire is represented by Native Tongue Publishing.

I like to collaborate with other artists so that I may be musically inspired by their creative vision, and in turn they may become inspired by mine. In music and art I admire simplicity, emotion and originality.

Composed (17)

Bus Stop

for six percussionists, 6m

Hansel and Gretel

music for a ballet


for orchestra, 6m 30s

My Alphabet of Light

for orchestra, 6m


for orchestra, 6m

Paper dragonfly

for piano

Shadow Hands

for piano, 7m


for two percussionists, 5m


for violin and orchestra, 28m

Subtle Dances

for violin, cello and piano

Trains of Thinking

for orchestra, 8m

Ultra Violet

for violin, cello and piano


for cello, 1m

Whetu-Rere - The Sea Lion and the Comet

for voice, mixed chamber sextet and taonga puoro, 22m

wood : strings : hammers : flesh

for violin, cello and piano, 10m

Performances (5)

NZTrio | Exotica

Enjoy a myriad of single movements, like a tasting platter full of vibrant, piquant music from Sp...

NZTrio: The Americas

Ashley welcomes back Andrew Beer (violin) and Stephen De Pledge (piano) for a ripper of a program...

NZTrio | The Americas

Ashley welcomes back __Andrew Beer (violin)__ and __Stephen De Pledge (piano)__ for one last 2019...

Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra | Sweet Strings

__Schubert__ | String Quartet No.12 ‘Quartettsatz’ __Claire Cowan__ | Hansel and Gretel: Short...

Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra | Sweet Strings

__Schubert__ | String Quartet No.12 ‘Quartettsatz’ __Claire Cowan__ | Hansel and Gretel: Short...