Dulcie Holland is well known to generations of Australian music student through her music theory books “Master your theory” along with her books on musicianship. This series has become popular amongst music educators. Each book in the series acts as an instruction book and workbook combined. The course is comprehensively planned to allow students to start with the first principles of music theory and then work progressively through the grades. Each point made is followed by exercises that reinforce the knowledge gained. The series allows students to become better musicians along with helping them to prepare for examinations such as AMEB, a school music syllabus or Year 12 music theory. These books provide insight into how music is written. These books are particularly useful for busy practical music teachers who find practical lessons too short to include the time to include music theory. Students can work through these books at home and have their teacher review their answers to provide feedback.
She was born in Sydney in 1913 and began learning the piano at age six . She went on to study music at the NSW State Conservatorium of Music (now called the Sydney Conservatorium of Music). Her teachers included Frank Hutchens for piano, Gladstone Bell for cello and Alfred Hill for composition.
She achieved her Teacher’s Diploma in 1933. After completing her studies at the Conservatorium, she then studied with Roy Agnew.
In London, she studied with John Ireland at the Royal College of music where she was awarded the Blumenthal Scholarship at the end of her first year. She also won the Cobbett Prize for Chamber Composition. Unfortunately, the outbreak of World War II meant that she returned to Australia where she worked as a freelance composer.
In the 1940’s, she lived in Sydney with her husband (the conductor Alan Bellhouse) and their two children. It was during this time that she composed the trio for violin, cello and piano, which is considered to be one the greatest treasures of Australian music.
During her career she had a considerable output of serious rather than educational compositions. In the 1950’s, she composed music for some forty films documenting life in Australia that were produced by the Department of the Interior Holland joined the Australian Music Examinations Board in 1967 as an examiner. During her long association with the Board, she produced a prolific number of musical studies and pieces for students of all levels along with her books on music theory. She retired from the AMEB in 1983 but continued to compose.
However she elected to place more focus on the writing of music textbooks as she felt that “making new converts to music” was more important than adding to existing musical compositions. She believed that being a woman placed her in a particularly good position to write her textbooks as she had mothered two children as well as teaching children. This had given her first hand opportunities to see how young people develop, and how their lives could be enriched by a knowledge and love of music.
She was made a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) in 1993. In 1993, Macquarie University awarded her an honorary Doctorate of Letters (D. Litt.).
She died in Sydney in 2000 at the age of 87.