American composer Howard L Quilling was born on 16 December 1935 in Enid, Oklahoma, and grew up in Napa, California. He studied at the University of Southern California and the University of California, Santa Barbara. His composition teachers were Ingolf Dahl, Robert Linn, David Raksin, Ernst Kanitz, Emma Lou Diemer, Edward Applebaum, and Peter Racine Fricker.
In 1971 he began teaching music theory and composition at Bakersfield College, and in 1981 was appointed composer in residence. He retired from Bakersfield in 1996, continuing to teach part-time until 2002.
In 1988 he created the New Directions Concert Series at Bakersfield Symphony, and the orchestra gave first performances of two of Quilling's overtures - Mountain Streams (1996) and From Quiet Beginnings (1998). The latter piece was recorded in 2000 by the Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra for the MMC label, and the recording was reissued on Navona NV7871 in 2012.
Howard Quilling died in Bakersfield on 26 February 2016, aged eighty.