1941, Born Hamilton, New Zealand. Childhood in Auckland and Whangarei
1959-62, studies at the University of Auckland
1963, studies at Victoria University of Wellington.
1964, graduates B.Mus Hons.
1964-65, Studies composition at the University of Sydney with Peter Sculthorpe.
1966, Graduates M.Mus Hons, Sydney University. Studies at Adelaide Conservatorium with Peter Maxwell Davies.
1967, travels to England to continue studying with Peter Maxwell Davies, works in London composing and copying music for two years.
1968, kuru performed by Pierrot Players conducted by Peter Maxwell Davies in Berlin.
1969-70, with the assistance of a New Zealand Arts Council grant works in Portugal and Italy. For the next seven years continues freelance composing, principally based in the UK.
1970, te āhua, te atārangi, string quartet, wins NZBC/ APRA/ NZ Music Federation competition.
1973, Marduk for mezzo-soprano and chamber ensemble premiered by Fires of London, Queen Elizabeth Hall, London.
1978, Premier of opera Tristan and Iseult at 1978 Auckland Festival. Tristan and Iseult wins Silver Scroll.
1978-80, Composer in Residence for Northern Arts attached to Newcastle University (UK).
1981, Hotspur the official celebration for Waitangi Day at NZ House, London. Appointed Lecturer in Composition Sydney Conservatorium of Music. For four years is Head of Composition there.
1985, Appointed Acting, and subsequently Alternating Head of Composition, Sydney Conservatorium of Music.
1988, Premier of opera Bride of Fortune at Perth Festival.
1989, Short residency at School of Music Victoria University.
1992, Mozart Fellow Otago University.
1996, takes early retirement. Divides her time as a free-lance composer between Sydney and Dunedin, New Zealand.
1998, Release of CD Ipu. Premiere of opera Outrageous Fortune.
1999, opera, Outrageous Fortune, wins the SOUNZ Contemporary Award. Honoured with membership of the NZ Order of Merit for services to music.
2000, is one of the inaugural Artist Laureates of the NZ Arts Foundation and now a governor of the organisation. Release of CD Waiteata Collection of New Zealand Music Vol. 3 - Composer Portrait: Gillian Whitehead.
2000 and 2001, Composer in Residence at the Auckland Philharmonia. Orchestral work, the improbable ordered dance written during the Residency wins the 2001 SOUNZ Contemporary Award.
2003, wins the SOUNZ Contemporary Award for Alice, a major work for mezzo-soprano and orchestra, also written for the Auckland Philharmonia.
1998-2003 President of the Composers’ Association of New Zealand.
2002, Composer Portrait concert at the NZ Arts Festival.
2003, Honorary Doctorate Victoria University, Dmus (honoris causa). SOUNZ Contemporary Award for Alice for mezzo-soprano and orchestra.
2004, Founded ensemble Tuhonohon.
2005, NZ School of Music/ Creative NZ Composer in Residence; inaugural resident at Wellington's Lilburn Residence.
2006, Artsville documentary Composer in Residence by Wild Iris Productions.
2007, KBB/CANZ citation for services to New Zealand Music.
2008,Distinguished Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit. Release of Puhake ki te rangi, a CD of chamber music.
2009, is granted the title ‘Dame’.
2009, March, invited to be an artist-in-residence for 12 months at the Henderson House – a Plischke designed house in Alexandra, Central Otago.
2010, Moon, Tides, and Shoreline, biography of Gillian's life launched.
2011, 5 pieces played at the city of London festival. Missa Previs, Moon Tides and Shoreline, The Journey of Matuku Moana, Arapatiki and Puhake ki te rangi.
2012,CD Arapatiki released by Atoll.
2013, James Wallace arts trust residency at the Pah homestead. CD Alice released by Atoll.
Gillian Whitehead has written a wide range of music including works for solo, chamber, choral, orchestral, and operatic forces, many of them direct commissions from performers and funding organisations. A number of her works have been recorded for commercial release, including a CD of her chamber works by Waiteata Press and a recording of her opera, Outrageous Fortune. Her scores are available from the Australian and New Zealand Music Centres or from her agents who can be contacted through the Music Centres.