Howard Quilling was a prolific classical composer with an international reputation who cared nearly as much about promoting the careers of emerging talents as he did about advancing his own. He died at age 80 in February.
“I think he was a successful composer,” said his wife, Joyce Quilling, in an interview Friday. “He definitely was a successful human being. A lot of his students felt he inspired and helped them a great deal.”
Quilling taught music composition and theory at Bakersfield College for 25 years, retiring in 1996. Despite his long career in education, he managed to compose some 250 pieces of music in his lifetime, his wife estimated.
Among the composer’s commissions was the highly regarded “From Quiet Beginnings,” written to commemorate Bakersfield’s centennial in 1998. His compositions have been recorded and performed all over the world — in the Czech Republic, Poland and in major cities throughout the country, including Los Angeles and New York. A high point of his career, his wife said, was a performance of a piano sonata at one of the world’s most prestigious venues: Carnegie Hall in Manhattan.
The last completed Quilling composition was a piece he did for a gathering of the American Guild of Organists in Bakersfield three years ago.
“When he wrote the piece for the convention, he told me at that time, ‘That’s my last piece.’ And he was right,” his wife said. “It was.”