Claire Cowan is an award winning composer and multi-instrumentalist based in Auckland.  Claire is an experienced orchestrator and symphonic writer, having worked with all 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, Bic Runga, Leisure, Tim Finn and the Phoenix Foundation.

Her own performance project, ‘The Blackbird Ensemble’ (25 piece orchestra) have performed to sold out crowds in since it’s 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 2017 they premiered ‘Bjork: All is full of love” to celebrate Icelandic artist Björk’s 50th year. In 2015 she joined the band SJD as it’s 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 composing music for the 30th Anniversary World of Wearable Arts.

Claire was recently awarded the Apra Professional Development Award for Film and Television, and won the Apra Silver Scroll for her score on TV series ‘Hillary’.
Claire is represented by Native Tongue Publishing and currently has her studio at Parachute Music studios in Kingsland, Auckland.

Awards & Nominations

-Chapman Tripp ‘best original score’ nomination for ‘The Keepers’

-TVNZ ‘best original score’ nomination for ‘Hillary’ TV series

-Auckland University Cultural Blue Award

-Auckland Philharmonia Young Composers Award

-NZSO Todd Young Composer Award

-Auckland Artist in Parks residency recipient

-Apra Professional Development Award (Film and TV)

-Apra Silver Scroll for “Hillary” TV series


Notable Compositions & Collaborations

Film & TV

-The Memory Booth -dir. Steven Chow

-The Off Season – dir. Michael Lonsdale

-Whetu-Rere, The Sealion and the Comet – dir. Kat Baulu & Alistair Jamieson

-Moonlight – dir. Tom Reilly

-Moonfishing – dir. David Michael Friend

-Assume Nothing – dir. Kirsty MacDonald

-Waitangi, What Really Happened – dir. Peter Burger

-The Women’s Vote – dir. Peter Burger

-Billy – dir. Peter Burger

-Hillary TV series – dir. Danny Mulheron

-An Ordinary Person – dir. Susan Potter

-Shirley and the Hungary Bear – dir. Alan dickson (YUKFOO Animation WIP)

-Flipped – dir. Touch Compass Dance Company

-The Luring – dir Alex Plumb

-Sail Away – dir. Tama Jarman & Ella Becroft

-Baby? -dir. Mark Prebble

-Spirit’s Bay -dir. Joseph Michael (Dark Cloud White Light)

-Kiwi – dir. Thomas Robbins


-The Keepers – dir. Sally Stockwell

-Paper Sky – Red Leap Theatre

-Sea – Red Leap Theatre

-Red – Auckland Theatre Company

-Acquisitions – Touch Compass Dance

-Ego – dir. D.M. Friend HERE centre for the Arts, NY

-Dreams – Blackbird Ensemble

-Suture – dir. Alys Longley

-Leaning Tower of Penchant – Backlit productions


-Tower Insurance “lawnmower”  TVC

-Sealord TVCs

-Air NZ “Playboy bunnies” Ad

-Air NZ “The Hoff” Ad

-CANNZ media awards “Aids” Ad

-Storybox, installation soundtrack

Orchestral & Concert

-NZSO Made in NZ concert “My alphabet of light” and “The trojan bird”

-APO War and Peace “Drums of Mars”

-NZ Trio “Subtle Dances” & “Ultraviolet” Chamber music commission

-Trio Scintillatum – “Wood Strings Hammers Flesh”

-NZSO Readings “Here at this quiet limit of the world”

-NZSO National Youth Orchestra “Trains of thinking”

-CSO & APO “Divas” and “The Adults” concert arrangements

-LEISURE & APO orchestral arranger

-Orchestra Wellington “Stark – Violin Concerto”

-Orchestra Wellington -Nelson opera in the park arrangements

-Maori Television – Arrangements for Anzac day

-Flamenco Concert music – Collab. Isabel Rivera Cuenca

Teaching Positions

-Guest lecturer in documentary music, NFB Canada

-Guest Lecturer, Film music University of Auckland

-Guest Lecturer, Victoria School of Music Wellington

-Piano Teacher, NZMSM

-Private Cello Teacher

-Drama and Improvised theatre tutor, Bucklands Beach Intermediate

-Drama and Music tutor, Primary School Educational Programmes


Blackbird Ensemble Productions

-Arvo Pärt Experience

-The Duino Elegies

-By the Sea

-Ballet Banquet


-The Wilderness

-The Night Sky



-Bjork: All is full of love

-The Afterlife (in development)

-The Nannas and the Poppas





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