Lee Hoiby (February 17, 1926 – March 28, 2011), American Classical composer, pianist.

Lee Hoiby was born in Madison, Wisconsin. He attended the University of Wisconsin–Madison, where he studied piano with Egon Petri. He also was exposed to the music of Schoenberg through the Pro Arte Quartet and its leader Rudolf Kolisch, (Schoenberg’s son-in-law). He also performed in avant-garde composer Harry Partch’s ensembles. After leaving Madison, he studied with Darius Milhaud at Mills College in California, before attending the Curtis Institute, where he became a leading disciple of Italian opera composer Gian-Carlo Menotti.

Like Menotti, Hoiby was primarily a composer of operas and art songs, as well as several pieces for the piano, including two concertos. His first opera, The Scarf, was premiered at Menotti’s Spoleto Festival in Italy and was widely acclaimed, including a review in Time magazine. Subsequent operas include A Month in the Country (originally Natalia Petrovna) and his best-known work, Summer and Smoke, based on the play by Tennessee Williams. He also wrote two musical monologues, The Italian Lesson and Bon Appetit! that featured actress Jean Stapleton from television’s All in the Family. Two of his last operas were Shakespeare’s The Tempest and Romeo and Juliet.

His art songs were championed by Leontyne Price. Some of his better known songs include a setting of Martin Luther King‘s “I Have a Dream” speech and the haunting Last Letter Home, taken from an army private’s last letter before he was killed in Iraq. He also wrote many choral pieces, including a Christmas Cantata, (A Hymn of the Nativity), and a set of pieces from the poems of Walt Whitman.

Lee Hoiby died in New York at the age of 85 after a brief battle with cancer.

Visit the official Lee Hoiby website here: www.leehoiby.com

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