Lita GrierNamed a Chicagoan of the Year in 2005 by the Chicago Tribune, native New Yorker and now longtime Chicagoan, Lita Grier won early recognition as a composer. She was awarded First Prize in the New York Philharmonic Young Composer’s Contest. Her winning composition, Three Episodes for Piano, was published by Carl Fischer in 1953  and presented in Carnegie Hall at a Young People’s Concert in March  of 1954.  The work is still in performance today in its original version, 3X2, along with virtually all of her other early music, including her Sonata for Flute and Piano, composed at age nineteen.  The late flute virtuoso Julius Baker described this work as “…a new classic in the standard flute repertory.”

Following her graduation from Juilliard, she spent a summer at Tanglewood, working with Lukas Foss and attending master classes with Aaron Copland. She went on to earn a Masters degree and an Atwater Kent Prize from UCLA under Lukas Foss and Roy Harris, and then set composition aside for some 30 years. At that time there was little encouragement for women composers, especially those working independently and in a more tonal harmonic language.

She worked in many aspects of the music profession: as a writer, teacher, program annotator, in artist management, public relations, and finally broadcasting, joining with her husband, Dean Grier, in 1987 to establish one of the country’s leading independent companies of classical music radio production, InterContinental Media, Inc, It was the first to broadcast a stand-alone series from the Salzburg Festival as well as annual broadcast series by such leading European orchestras and festivals as the Concertgebouw, Rotterdam, Orchestre de Paris, Mozartwoche, etc. Following his death in 1997, she succeeded him as President, producing a first-ever US series of broadcasts by the Vienna Philharmonic, including a much-acclaimed season of programs hosted by Jeremy Irons and live broadcasts from Salzburg on the 250th anniversary of Mozart’s birth. Produced in collaboration with WFMT, Chicago, WQXR, New York and XM Satellite Radio, it was heard throughout the US on FM as well as the US and Canada on Satellite Radio, the largest network to broadcast a classical music radio series.

Her successful return to composition in recent years has been described as “unprecedented”. “(Her album) represents how an extraordinarily gifted composer was able to defy history and return to composing vibrant music after a 30-year hiatus” (Ted Hatmaker: Album notes: Songs from Spoon River). In the past decade her reputation has continued to grow, with an ever increasing number of performances, recordings  and commissions, most prominently from the Ravinia Festival, with four commissions in five years.

Her music has been heard at many of the country’s major venues: The Kennedy Center in Washington, DC, New York’s Lincoln Center, Chicago’s Symphony Center, Ravinia, the Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park (Reflections of a Peacemaker, commissioned by the Chicago Children’s Choir), and at such prestigious Midwest universities as Indiana U. in Bloomington, Northwestern, Northern Illinois University, De Paul University, Roosevelt University, and the Chicago Music Institute, many of which have featured full length programs devoted to her music. Her Flute Sonata, performed worldwide, is taught at major music schools in the US and Europe. Its orchestral adaptation, “Renascence”, (1999) was broadcast nationally on NPR’s Performance Today, with the Chicago Symphony’s principal flutist Mathieu Dufour and the Ars Viva Symphony, under Alan Heatherington. 

Her music, published by Theodore Presser, has been recorded on several labels, most prominently Cedille Records, which has issued 5 albums featuring her music, including one entirely devoted to her vocal works: Songs From Spoon River, Reflections of a Peacemaker ad Other Vocal Music by Lita Grier, named one of the 10 Best Albums of the Year by the Chicago Herald.

Lita Grier has also composed five works for Music Theater, all of which have been produced. Recent commissions include an Elegy for Flute, Viola and Harp, premiered by flutist Mathieu Dufour, Winter Songs for the William Ferris Chorale, conducted by Paul French, and a Requiem Missa Brevis for the children lost to gun violence in Newtown Conn, performed under the direction of Doreen Rao, broadcast nationwide, and published by Boosey and Hawkes. Grier’s unusual musical journey has been featured in Chicago Magazine, in many newspaper and magazine articles and has also been documented on PBS Channel 11’s Artbeat Chicago.