Chris Howlett: So many strings to his bow

July 21, 2017


At only 32, cello player Chris Howlett has already achieved more in his three and a bit decades than many people do in a lifetime.

Chris and his Australian International Productions team are on a three-week concert tour of China for children called ‘Draw What you Will Hear’.

Chris’s musicians will visit 20,000 children from low socio-economic areas in China with a truckload of coloured pencils and special educational books. Armed with these pencils and books, the children are guided by the orchestra to understand that music is about colours and images.

Last year Chris and Co. toured China for four weeks, entertaining and educating 28,000 children. Three tours are planned for 2018, as Chris’s venture is regarded as high-quality, unique and rewarding.

Giving back to children from poorer backgrounds is something of a passion for this young entrepreneur, as it was his talent for music that won him a scholarship to Melbourne’s prestigious Wesley College.

“Coming from a low socio-economic background, for me cello has always been able to open up amazing doors, be it the scholarship to Wesley, to studying in Vienna, New York and London, and being able to share my passion for music with people around Australia and the world,” Chris tells Warcry.

Making the most of his opportunities at school, Chris balanced his musical passion by being in the debating team, the first football team and rowing for the school.

As a little tacker, music always called to Chris.

“I remember sitting up in bed listening to my grandpa performing on the jazz program on the radio station 3MBS Fine Music Melbourne and I was hooked,” he recalls.

Chris graduated in 2007 from Melbourne University at the top of his class with first class honours, before travelling overseas for further study.

Then Chris realised that to make a living from music in Australia you had to be an entrepreneur, and he discovered there was a big market for classical music in China.

“China has been an amazing journey so far. It started with a last-minute call asking if I could put together a five-week tour of China doing the opera Carmen with 11 singers and a 28-piece orchestra, with two and a half weeks’ notice,” he recollects.

“We now have six people working in our office in China, with five areas of focus—opera, music theatre, recitals, education and cultural exchange,” Chris explains.

Chris is also director of a yearly music festival at Sanguine Estate in Victoria and chairman of the board of radio station 3MBS Fine Music, as well as curating the Music in the Round festival at Abbotsford Convent and the annual 3MBS fundraising musical marathon.

Somehow, despite the workload, Chris found time to marry the girl he first dated at high school. While Chris and Elle have been married for two years, he estimates he has been away for about 11 months of that time.

However, Chris is thankful for the support he gets from Elle, who he describes as “amazing”.

“In 2016 I took 82 flights and spent five and a half months in hotels. You need a special type of partner, strong and independent, to cope with this type of scheduling—it is definitely a team effort,” he smiles.

Asked what drives him, Chris’s answer is simple and direct.

“It is the dream to work and be paid in the area of your passion. I have never enjoyed being boxed in, so pushing the boundaries always drives me to go further.”

“For this I toil, striving with all the energy which he [God]mightily inspires within me” (Colossians chapter 1, verse 29).

An apt description of one driven musical entrepreneur named Chris Howlett.


Tags: Salvation Army Australia

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