Ronald Tremain was born in Feilding in 1923. He became a distinguished composer and teacher, initially studying piano, he gained Trinity College Diplomas before earning his first degree in music at Canterbury University.
After serving in the war, he taught at Feilding High School and attended Cambridge Summer Music Schools in 1947 and 1948, studying composition with Douglas Lilburn. He continued his studies at the Royal College of Music in London earning diplomas in piano performance and a doctorate in 1953. He received several awards during this time, including the Royal College of Music's Cobbett Prize for his String Quartet, as well as the Farrar Prize, and second prize in the Lionel Tertis Awards. In 1952, he was awarded an Italian Government Bursary and studied composition with Goffredo Petrassi at the Conservatorio Santa Cecilia in Rome.
After some years overseas, Tremain returned to New Zealand, where he spent ten years as a lecturer at the University of Auckland. In 1963, he was awarded the Carnegie Travelling Fellowship, and toured universities in the United States, serving several stints as Visiting Professor at the University of Michigan, and the State University of New York. He then returned to Britain to lecture at Goldsmiths College at the University of London.
In 1970, Tremain moved to Canada where he was Professor of Music at Brock University until his retirement in 1989. In 1991 he was made a Professor Emeritus. He died several years later in 1998, at Niagara on the Lake.