Dawn Sonntag is a composer, vocalist, pianist, and choral conductor whose works include vocal, choral, chamber, and orchestral music. Influenced by her extensive background as both a vocalist and pianist, Sonntag has been called a “versatile musician of great ability” whose works are “hauntingly lyrical” (Schaumburg-Lippe Landes-Zeituing, June, 2009).
Her choral works have been performed by the Valparaiso Concert Choir, Augsburg College Choir, University of Minnesota Women’s Choir, the Ohio State Chamber Singers and Women’s Glee Club, the Princeton Singers, and the North Florida Women’s Chorale. Her vocal and chamber music has been featured on numerous Cleveland Composer Guild concerts and broadcast on public radio and television and was featured on the documentary films Action Arts and Voice to Vision IV, which were broadcast on Twin Cities PBS. Her first opera, “Verlorene Heimat,” which chronicles the experiences of ethnic German East Prussian refugees in Eastern Europe during WWII, will be premiered April 10th, 2014 at Hiram College. In 2013, Sonntag was selected as a composer-in-residence at the Visby International Centre for Composition in Visby, Sweden, and in 2010 was named the Music Teachers National Association-Ohio’s Distinguished Composer of the Year. She was a finalist in the 2007 American Composers Forum Faith Partners commissioning competition.
Her upcoming commissions include a work for chorus, Chinese instruments and marimba by the Vancouver-based trio, “The Orchid Ensemble;” a piano work for Cleveland-based pianist Randall Fusco; and an opera, with libretto by Norwegian-American writer and Luther Seminary Professor Emeritus Gracia Grindal, for the 150th anniversary of Augsburg College in 2019.
Sonntag’s performance background is varied. A a singer, Sonntag has performed art song, oratorio, opera, and jazz, and was winner of the Kenwood Symphony’s Masters Concerto and Aria competition. She has performed with the Florentine Opera and Opera Columbus, and appeared as a soloist with numerous choral organizations, including Kantorei (Minneapolis-St. Paul), Exulatate (St. Paul), the Westerville Community Chorus (Columbus), , and the Texas Bach Choir (San Antonio). Sonntag’s love for Scandinavian vocal music and language led to a Foreign Language Area Studies fellowship in Oslo, Norway in 2007 for the study of advanced Norwegian, and her vocal recital repertory includes works by Grieg, Sibelius, Backer-Grøndal, and Kjerulf. She was awarded the Inge Pitler Prize for both voice performance and lied accompanying at the Hochschule fuer Kirchenmusik in Heidelberg. As a pianist has performed with singers and instrumentalists across the U.S. and in Germany and France, and she worked extensively as a collaborative pianist and vocal coach while living in Germany from 1991-2000. Sonntag has conducted the Sarteano Chamber Choir in Sarteano, Italy; the Heidelberg International Choir; the German chamber choir Chor des Collegium Artiums; the Leif Eriksson International Choir; the Oslo University Summer School Choir; the Ohio State University Chamber Singers and Women’s Glee Club; the University of Minnesota Concert Choir and Women’s Chorus; and the Hiram College Chamber Singers and Western Reserve Women’s Chorus, which she founded in 2011, as well as numerous church choirs across the U.S. and in Germany.
Sonntag studied composition with Alex Lubet at the University of Minnesota. Her additional studies in counterpoint, harmony, and composition with Narcis Bonet, Claude Baker, and Phillip Lasser at the L’ecole normale de Musique in Paris, France, under the auspices of the European-American Musical Alliance, further developed her ability to infuse lyrical, melodic line into both her vocal and instrumental works.
Sonntag holds graduate degrees in voice, composition, choral conducting, and piano from the University of Minnesota, Ohio State University, and the Hochschule fuer Kirchenmusik, Heidelberg. She completed her undergraduate studies in trumpet performance, voice, and piano at the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee and the University of Texas at El Paso. She is Associate Professor of Music at Hiram College, a private liberal arts college locatedin the rural, rolling hills between Cleveland and Youngstown, where she heads the theory/composition and choral/vocal areas. Sonntag’s interest in music cognition and psychology have also led to interdisciplinary teaching with Hiram College neuroscience associate professor Dr. Tom Koehnle.