Short Biography

Composer Lawrence Dillon creates music that embraces our moment with a deep connection to the past and an open-minded curiosity about the future.

Despite losing 50% of his hearing in early childhood, Dillon began composing as soon as he started piano lessons at the age of seven. In 1985, he became the youngest composer to earn a doctorate at The Juilliard School, and was immediately appointed to the Juilliard faculty. He is now Composer in Residence at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts.  He is a two-time winner of the North Carolina Artist Fellowship, the highest honor accorded to artists in the state.

Writing about Dillon’s Through the Night (commissioned and premiered by the Emerson String Quartet), Stringendo called him “a superb composer… Dillon’s music is eminently approachable, intensely passionate and filled with surprises.”  Gramophone called his recording Insects and Paper Airplanes “sly and mysterious…arresting and appealing… Just when you thought the string quartet may have reached the edge of sonic possibilities, along comes a composer who makes something novel, haunting and whimsical of the genre… Highly recommended.”

Dillon’s music is published by American Composers Editions.  His recordings may be found on several labels, including Bridge, Naxos, Albany and CRS.


  • Emerson String Quartet
  • Seattle Chamber Music Society
  • Louisville Orchestra
  • Wintergreen Summer Arts Festival
  • Daedalus String Quartet
  • Idyllwild Symphony
  • Swannanoa Chamber Music Festival
  • Salt Lake Symphony
  • Boise Philharmonic
  • Low and Lower
  • University of Utah
  • Danielle Belén
  • Killington Festival
  • Illuminations Festival
  • Naumberg Winner Elaine Richey
  • Winston-Salem Symphony
  • Bluthner Piano Series
  • Carolina Chamber Symphony


  • Composer in Residence at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts
  • First Prize, Ravinia Festival Composer Competition
  • Berlin Prize
  • Gretchaninoff Prize
  • North Carolina Artist Fellowship
  • International Horn Society
  • Fanfare Magazine Want List
  • Masterprize (special commendation)
  • American Music Center
  • Featured Composer, Chamber Music Magazine
  • National Endowment for the Arts
  • Mary Flagler Cary Charitable Trust
  • Mary Duke Biddle Foundation
  • The Jerome Foundation
  • The Pew Charitable Trusts
  • Contemporary Record Society
  • ASCAP Young Composer Award

Guest Composer Residencies

  • Curtis Institute of Music
  • SUNY Stony Brook
  • Wintergreen Summer Arts Festival
  • Charles Ives Center
  • Saugatuck Festival
  • Swannanoa Chamber Music Festival
  • Killington Festival
  • The Colburn School of Music
  • Seisen International School
  • St. Petersburg Rimsky-Korsakov Conservatory
  • The Hartt School of Music
  • Indiana University
  • Charlotte New Music Festival
  • Boise State University
  • University of California Sacramento
  • Eastern Michigan University
  • Eastern Carolina University
  • The Buckley School


  • Insects and Paper Airplanes: Chamber Music of Lawrence Dillon – (Bridge Records 2010)
    • String Quartets 2, 3, 4 and What Happened
    • Daedalus String Quartet and Benjamin Hochman
  • Violin Music of Lawrence Dillon (Naxos 2010)
    • Danielle Belen and guests
  • Appendage and Other Stories (Albany 2009)
    • Vocal works: Entrance, Exit, Still Point, Appendage
    • Lauren Flanigan, soprano; Ransom Wilson, conductor
  • Elixir (ACA 2014)
    • Pianist Yael Manor
    • Piano music by Dillon, Tillis, Kroeger, Cameron-Wolfe, Chow, Moya, Parris
  • Chamber Music of Lawrence Dillon – (Albany 2002)
    • Borromeo, Cassatt, Mendelssohn String Quartets
    • flutist Ransom Wilson, bassoonist Jeff Keesecker


  • DMA, MM from The Juilliard School
    • Private studies with Vincent Persichetti
    • Classes with Milton Babbitt, Elliott Carter, David Diamond, Leon Fleischer, Roger Sessions
  • BMus from The Hartt School of Music
    • Private studies with Donald Harris, James Sellars
  • Early lessons in piano and composition with Leslie Horvath and Edwin Finckel

Full Biography

Composer in Residence at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts, LAWRENCE DILLON (born 1959, Summit, New Jersey) creates works that connect past and present in attractive and unexpected ways, provoking Gramophone to exclaim, “Each score is an arresting and appealing creation, full of fanciful and lyrical flourishes within traditional forms that are brightly tweaked.” His music is characterized by a keen sensitivity to color, a mastery of form, and what the Louisville Courier-Journal has called a “compelling, innate soulfulness.”

Dillon’s music, in the words of American Record Guide, is “lovely…austere…vivid and impressive.” His string quartets have received particular acclaim, with performances by the Emerson, American, Borromeo, Cassatt, Daedalus, Mendelssohn quartets, to name a few of the most prominent.

Other chamber commissions and performances in the last 15 years have come from the Seattle Chamber Music Society, the Ravinia Festival, Le Train Bleu, the Prism Quartet, the Quartetto di Sassofoni d’Accademia, the Atlantic Ensemble, the Carpe Diem Quartet, the Lincoln Trio, the Kavafian-Jolley-Vonsattel Trio, Low and Lower, the Wintergreen Summer Arts Festival, the Saugatuck Festival, the Watson Brass Quintet, the Manhattan School of Music Brass Ensemble, Panharmonia, the Out of Bounds Ensemble, the Beo String Quartet, the Black Mountain Trio, the Tallinna Filharmoonia, the Garth Newell Piano Quartet, the Treetops Chamber Music Society, the Giannini String Quartet, the Hot Springs Music Festival, the Seal Bay Festival, Ensemble 20>>21, the Future Music Oregon Festival, and the Luzerne Chamber Music Festival.

Over the same time period, his orchestral music has been performed by the Salt Lake City Symphony, the Idyllwild Symphony, the Winston-Salem Symphony, the Boise Philharmonic, the University of Utah Orchestra, Northern Kentucky University Philharmonic, the University of North Carolina School of the Arts Symphony Orchestra, Windsor Symphony Orchestra, and the Boca Raton Symphonia,

In October 2010, Bridge Records released Insects and Paper Airplanes, a disk of Dillon’s chamber music featuring the Daedalus String Quartet and pianist Benjamin Hochman. Gramophone called it “highly recommended,” saying, “Just when you thought the string quartet may have reached the edge of sonic possibilities, along comes a composer who makes something novel, whimsical and haunting of the genre.”

The same year, Dillon’s recording Appendage and Other Stories made Fanfare Magazine’s 2010 Want List. Raymond Tuttle wrote of it, “This is a terrific work. In fact, it is so good it made me weep. And Dillon, with his vivid imagination and his ear for vocal and instrumental color, seems to be a terrific composer.”

In April 2011, Naxos released Violin Music of Lawrence Dillon featuring Sphinx Grand Prizewinner Danielle Belén. MUSICWEB INTERNATIONAL described it as “an hour of music that is often profound without being pretentious, sometimes light-hearted but never ‘lite’, humorous without being arch, and immensely appealing but never frivolous.”

In 2014, Dillon completed his long-term chamber project, the Invisible Cities String Quartet Cycle, a cycle of six quartets focusing on Classical forms, with Quartet No. 6: Rapid Eye, commissioned by the Carpe Diem Quartet. The Emerson Quartet commissioned String Quartet No. 5: Through the Night and premiered it on March 9th, 2010 at the Kölner Philharmonie in Cologne, Germany, with subsequent performances in Seattle, Winston-Salem, Washington, New York and Philadelphia. Following the performance at the Smithsonian Associates, the Washington Post wrote, “Dillon has a huge repertoire of technical tools on his belt, and he uses them liberally but always sensitively and intelligently.”

String Quartet No. 4: The Infinite Sphere was commissioned by the Daedalus Quartet and premiered at Wolf Trap in January 2010.  Of the fourth quartet, the Washington Post wrote, “Dillon’s control of time was a conspicuously imaginative element throughout. It is a fine addition to the repertoire.”  The first quartet in the cycle, Jests and Tenderness, was premiered and recorded by the Mendelssohn String Quartet in 2000.  The second quartet, Flight, was premiered by the Daedalus String Quartet in 2003.  The third quartet, Air, was premiered in 2006 by an ensemble comprised of members of the Miami, Mendelssohn and Brentano String Quartets.

Dillon was the Featured American Composer in the February 2006 issue of Chamber Music magazine.

Figments and Fragments, an orchestral fantasy that imagines the wild ruminations of Robert Schumann’s mind as he lay paralyzed in an asylum in Endenich, was commissioned by a consortium of five orchestras, resulting in performances in Los Angeles, Salt Lake City and Boise from May through November 2010.

The Better Angels of Our Nature, Dillon’s composition for piano trio and narrator based on texts of Abraham Lincoln, was a winner in the first composer competition sponsored by the Ravinia Festival in July 2008.  It has already had over forty performances in eleven cities.

His Amadeus ex machina was chosen to represent the US in celebrations of Mozart’s 250th birthday in Salzburg, Vienna and Graz, Austria in the spring of 2006.  The piece has also been performed by the St. Petersburg Chamber Philharmonic (where Dillon was a guest of the St. Petersburg Rimsky-Korsakov Conservatory) and awarded a special commendation by the 2003 Masterprize panel in London.  It was also chosen as contemporary competition piece for the 2002 Vakhtang Jordania International Conducting Competition in Kharkov, Ukraine, and has had US performances by orchestras in Minnesota, Indiana, Kentucky, Utah, North Carolina, and at the 2006 Spoleto Festival USA in Charleston, South Carolina. Amadeus ex machina was a featured work on the 2010 Conductor’s Guild Conference in Copenhagen.

In February 2005, hornist David Jolley and the Carolina Chamber Symphony premiered Dillon’s Revenant: Concerto for Horn and Orchestra with the composer conducting.  The piece went on to win a prize from the International Horn Society. Also in 2005, his piano quartet What Happened was premiered in Paris at the Maison Danois by the Atlantic Ensemble.

Dillon’s Wright Flight, commissioned by the 2003 illuminations festival, was premiered at Roanoke Island Festival Park in July of that year. The work combines orchestra, projected images and three strands of narrative to tell the story of the Wright Brothers’ first flight. Wright Flight was selected as a featured work in the Wright Brothers’ Centennial Celebration at Kitty Hawk in December 2003.

A recording of his music, featuring flutist Ransom Wilson along with the Borromeo, Cassatt and Mendelssohn String Quartets, was released by Albany Records in the summer of 2002. American Record Guide called it “lovely…austere…vivid and impressive.” CVNC cited the recording as “delightful and engaging…inventive and skillfully scored…fascinating and imaginative.” In NewMusicBox, Amanda MacBlane commented on a “pure mode of expression that layers lines so gracefully they seem to play themselves with an energetic fervor. Dillon’s painterly style carefully colors phrases with glissandi and subtle accents underneath an intricate tapestry of sound.”

Dillon’s children’s piece Snegglish Dances was commissioned and premiered by the Louisville Orchestra, which subsequently won the 2001 Leonard Bernstein Award for Educational Programming from ASCAP and the American Symphony Orchestra League.

Partially deafened by a childhood illness, Dillon was the youngest of eight children raised by a widowed mother. His earliest memories are of a house filled with the sounds of older siblings practicing the piano. At the age of seven, he began his own lessons, and quickly developed the habit of composing a new work each week.

In 1985, Dillon became the youngest composer to earn a doctorate at The Juilliard School, winning the Gretchaninoff Prize upon graduation. As a student, he also won an ASCAP Young Composers Award and first prize in the annual CRS New Music Competition. He studied privately with Vincent Persichetti, and in classes with Milton Babbitt, Elliott Carter, David Diamond, Leon Kirchner and Roger Sessions. Upon graduation, he was appointed to the Juilliard faculty.

In 1990, Dillon was offered the position of Assistant Dean at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts, where he is now Composer in Residence.  He has also served as Interim Dean of the School of Music and founding Music Director of SACE, the School of the Arts Contemporary Ensemble.

In addition to his duties at UNCSA, Dillon has held residencies with numerous summer festivals, including the Cooperstown Chamber Festival, the Appalachian Summer Festival, the Wintergreen Summer Arts Festival, the Charles Ives Center, the Saugatuck Festival, the Swannanoa Chamber Music Festival and the Killington Festival. He has been a guest composer at the Curtis Institute of Music, SUNY-Stony Brook, the University of Utah, the Colburn School of Music, Seisen International School in Tokyo, the St. Petersburg Rimsky-Korsakov Conservatory, the Hartt School of Music, Indiana University, Boise State University, the University of California at Sacramento, Eastern Michigan University, Eastern Carolina University, the Buckley School, the Museum of the American Piano in New York and the Reynolda Museum of American Art. In 1999, he was named Music Program Director for the illuminations Summer Arts Festival on Roanoke Island, a position he held for seven years.

His works have been performed and broadcast throughout the Americas, Asia and Europe. His Violin Concerto was commissioned and premiered by the late Naumberg-winner Elaine Richey.

Dillon has earned numerous awards for his work, including honors from the American Music Center, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Mary Flagler Cary Charitable Trust, Masterprize, the Mary Duke Biddle Foundation, the Jerome Foundation, the Pew Charitable Trusts, the Ravinia Festival, the International Horn Society and Contemporary Record Society. In 1999 and 2013, he was awarded Artist Fellowships from North Carolina, the highest honor accorded to artists in the state.

Dillon’s music is recorded by Albany Records, Bridge Records, Naxos, Channel Crossings and CRS. His works are published by American Composers Editions, a subdivision of BMI.  His blog, infinite curves, was long featured on Sequenza21 and ArtsJournal