In naming Jean Coulthard Composer of the Year in 1984, the Performing Rights Organization said that the underlying force in all her work is feeling. Those who have been her students speak of her as a mentor, a world-class composer, a musical catalyst.
In a distinguished career which encompasses six decades of continuous activity, she has created more than 200 compositions. Her music, including works for orchestra, opera, chamber music, voice, and others, is regularly performed and broadcast worldwide.
Born in Vancouver, Jean Coulthard began to write music while still a child and continued her musical studies in England, New York and France. By the 1940s she was already being hailed as one of Canada’s most important composers.
In 1947 she was invited to teach music at the University of British Columbia, a position she maintained until her retirement in 1973. With her retirement from academic life, her activity as a composer blossomed with a renewed intensity.
In 1978 she was named a Freeman of the City of Vancouver and an Officer in the Order of Canada.
Jean Coulthard’s belief that a composer has a special responsibility to the community resulted in works designed to be accessible to the wider public, including works for students. She has brought British Columbia recognition in the musical field that has made possible the achievements of younger composers whom she taught and assisted.