Joseph Schwantner was born in 1943 in Chicago where he would stay for most of his early studies. Schwantner enrolled at Northwestern University and the Chicago Conservatory for his musical education and graduated with a doctorates degree in 1968. He went on to become the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra's first composer-in-residence through the Meet the Composer/Orchestra Residencies Program. It was here with the Saint Louis Symphony that Schwantner received his initial success including two Grammy nominations for Best New Classical Composition. His other highlights include a Pulitzer Prize and the Kennedy Center Friedheim Award for Excellence in Chamber Composition.
He has served on the faculties at Eastman, Julliard, and Yale and currently claims membership to the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Scwantner's primary influences Crumb, Messiaen, and Debussy can be seen in the framework of his compositions, but ultimately succeeds in molding a music of his own. His distinct style can be ascribed to his implementation of radiant yet unusual effects and complex harmonies meshed with at times catchy, compared to his predecessors, melodic lines.