Emma Lou Diemer was born in Kansas City, Missouri, on November 24, 1927 to George Willis Diemer, an educator and college president, and Myrtle Casebolt Diemer, a church worker and homemaker. Diemer played the piano and composed at a very early age and became organist in her church at age 13. Her great interest in composing music continued through College High School in Warrensburg, MO, and she majored in composition at the Yale Music School (BM, 1949; MM, 1950) and at the Eastman School of Music (Ph.D, 1960). She studied in Brussels, Belgium on a Fulbright Scholarship and spent two summers of composition study at the Berkshire Music Center.
Diemer taught in several colleges and was organist at several churches in the Kansas City area during the 1950s. From 1959-61 she was composer-in-residence in the Arlington, VA schools under the Ford Foundation Young Composers Project, and composed many choral and instrumental works for the schools, a number of which are still in publication. She was consultant for the MENC Contemporary Music Project before joining the faculty of the University of Maryland where she taught composition and theory from 1965-70. In 1971 she moved from the East Coast to teach composition and theory at the University of California, Santa Barbara where she was instrumental in founding the electronic/computer music program. In 1991 she became Professor Emeritus at UCSB.
Through the years she has fulfilled many commissions (orchestral, chamber ensemble, keyboard, choral, vocal) from schools, churches, and professional organizations. She has received awards from Yale University (Certificate of Merit), The Eastman School of Music (Edward Benjamin Award), the National Endowment for the Arts (electronic music project), Mu Phi Epsilon (Certificate of Merit), the Kennedy Center Friedheim Awards (for piano concerto), the American Guild of Organists (Composer of the Year), the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers/ASCAP (annually since 1962 for performances and publications), the Santa Barbara Symphony (composer-in-residence, 1990-92), the University of Central Missouri (honorary doctorate), and many others.
She is an active keyboard performer (piano, organ, harpsichord, synthesizer), and in the last few years has given concerts of her own music at Washington National Cathedral, St. Mary’s Cathedral and Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in Los Angeles, and elsewhere.
In 2012 she wrote two works for violinist Philip Ficsor including Concerto for Violin (A Little Parlour Music, Remembrance of Things Past, Santa Barbara Rag) and a light piece for violin and organ titled Holiday Madness Medley. Concerto for Violin premiered with the Westmont College Orchestra under Michael Shasberger at the Music Academy of the West in Santa Barbara, while Diemer herself premiered Holiday Madness Medley with Ficsor at the SB Music Club at First Congregational Church.
Cover Title (Subtitle) Duration Instrumentation Solo The Philadelphia Organ Book:Six Short Pieces for The Church Year Prelude On St.Paul’s Cathedral Organ Unaccompanied Chamber Ensemble DeclamationFor Brass and Percussion – Score and Parts 4:00 Chamber Ensemble Movement for Flute Oboe Piano Sonata #3 Praise The Lord Full Score, SATB chorus, Trp. (2), Trb. (2), Tba., Timp. (opt.), Org. QuartetFor Trumpet, Horn, Trombone and Piano Quartet for Flute, Violin, Cello and PianoOn Themes by Howard Hanson 10:00 SuiteFor Violin and Piano Violin with Piano Toccata for Flute Chorus 7:30 picc.(dbl. Eb fl.; C fl.), fl., a. fl., b. fl. Vocal/Choral A Little Song Of Life Alleluia 1:35 Women’s Chorus A Mighty Fortress Is Our God Dance, Dance My Heart SATB Dear God, Bestow On Us For Ye Shall Go Out With Joy SATB Four CarolsWomen’s Voices – S.S.A. Women’s Chorus Four Poems by Alice Meynell 13:00 Solo soprano voice; fl.(2) (picc.); perc., pno., hpschd., hp.; vln.(2), vla., vcl. Lift Up Your Heads Madrigals Three SATB O Come, Let Us Sing Unto The Lord 4:00 SATB O Come, Let Us Sing Unto The Lord TTBB Voices with Keyboard O Viridissima O Viridissima Virga(Song To The Mother) Free Song To The Virgin SSAA Peacefor SSAA Chorus and Organ SSAA Serenade/Toccata So Have I Seen/Silver Swan Your Friends Shall Be The Tall WindSsa Your Friends Shall Be The Tall Wind Orchestra Anniversary Choruses 15:00 SATB chorus; 3 2 2 2 – 4 3 3 1; 2Perc. Str. Festival Overture 6:30 Orchestra Invocation 3:00 SATB chorus; 3 2 2 2 – 4 3 3 1; Timp. Perc. Pno. Hp. Str. Suite of Homages 18:00 2 2 2 2 – 4 2 3 1; Timp. Perc. Pno. Str. Band / Wind Ensemble La Rag 9:00 picc., fl.(2), ob.(2), cl.(3), b.cl., bsn (2), a.sax.(2), t.sax., b.sax.; hn.(4), tpt.(4), tbn.(3), bar.hn., tba.; timp., perc.(3)
Emma Lou Diemer is the consummate musician—at once a composer, an educator and a performer.
–Ellen Grolman Schlegel, International Alliance for Women in Music
Because we often know composers’ names from past centuries better than those alive in our own time, we are lucky to have met Emma Lou Diemer, a composer whose body of work promises to stand the test of time.
–Carol Talbeck, San Francisco Choral Society
December 12, 2013
Performer(s): Emma Lou Diemer, Philip Ficsor
Work(s): Violin Concerto: A Little Parlour Music
Violin Concerto: Remembrance of Things Past
Violin Concerto: Santa Barbara Rag
Holiday Madness Medley
Violin Concerto: John Adams Light
February 26, 2013
Performer(s): London Symphony Orchestra, Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra, Czech Radio Symphony Orchestra
Work(s): Santa Barbara Overture
Concerto in One Movement for Marimba
Concerto in One Movement for Piano
December 1, 2008
Performer(s): Laura Kobayashi, violin, Susan Keith Gray, piano
Work(s): Before Spring
PAUL FREEMAN INTRODUCES MARILYN MASON
December 28, 2004
Performer(s): Czech National Symhony Orchestra, Paul Freeman, conductor, Marilyn Mason, organ
Work(s): Concerto in One Movement for Organ and Chamber Orchestra “Alaska”
IN YET LONGER LIGHT’S DELAY
January 1, 1996
Performer(s): Sunrise Quartet
Work(s): String Quartet No. 1
MUSIC AT THE CROSSROADS
December 1, 1995
Performer(s): North-South Consonance Ensemble
Work(s): Sextet for Flute, Oboe, Clarinet, Violin, Cello, and Piano
1995: Mu Phi Epsilon Certificate of Merit
1995: American Guild of Organists Composer of the Year
1992: Friedheim Award in Orchestral Music
1977: Certificate of Merit from Yale University
1972: National Endowment for the Arts Composer Fellowship in electronic music
1962 – Present: American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers/ASCAP Awards