Sarah Rimkus

Sarah Rimkus is an award-winning American composer of choral, vocal and chamber works. She brings a wide range of influences to her music, from ars antiqua and ars nova polyphony to Balkan and Scandinavian folk traditions and many other sources, and her work often explores issues such as communication, belonging, and conflict through use of contemporary themes and musical layering and contradiction. Her music has been described as “challenging yet attractive,” “always powerful and well-judged,” and “ranging from uncluttered lyrical poignancy to denser textures that suggest a holy clamor.”

Dr. Rimkus’s choral works have been performed extensively across the United States, the United Kingdom and Europe. Recent commissions include works for Amuse Singers, Harmonium Choral Society, and The Cambridge Chorale. Many of her works take inspiration from the British sacred choral tradition, including a mass setting in Latin and Scottish Gaelic premiered by the Cathedral Choir of St Andrews (Aberdeen) in 2017. She often compiles and edits her own texts and writes on important historical or contemporary events and themes. Her recent piece for The Esoterics entitled Uprooted set the words of two survivors of the Japanese exclusion during World War II, a deep part of the history of her Pacific Northwest home. Her works have been featured on BBC Radio 3 and Classic FM and professionally recorded by ensembles on both sides of the Atlantic. She has publications with GIA Publications, Walton Music, and See-a-Dot Publications, and self-publishes many of her scores.

She also has a strong interest in chamber works and the intimate communication of individual players in this medium. She has recently completed commissions for Red Note Ensemble and The Ligeti Quartet, commissioned by the Sound Festival and the Cheltenham Music Festival. Her choral works strongly inform her instrumental works and vice versa, particularly in her writing for the highly vocal and expressive family of string instruments. Her string orchestra piece Trapped in Amber, inspired by Kurt Vonnegut and Slaughterhouse-Five, was selected for performance by the USC Thornton Symphony in 2013 and awarded the ASCAP Morton Gould Award. She has also recently written works for acclaimed soprano and visual artist Jillian Bain Christie and renowned British organist Roger Williams MBE.  

Dr. Rimkus recently completed her PhD in music composition at the University of Aberdeen with Phillip Cooke and Paul Mealor, after completing her MM in composition with distinction at the University of Aberdeen in 2015. She earned her BM in composition magna cum laude in 2013 at the University of Southern California, where she developed her love of working with text and the voice while studying with Morten Lauridsen and Stephen Hartke.  She has been internationally recognized through awards such as the ASCAP Foundation Leonard Bernstein award, the Sacra/Profana composition award, and many others.  

As a teaching assistant and active musician in Scotland, she developed her passion for education of young composers and supporting the work of her students and peers. She taught composition privately to high school students in Aberdeen through the Sound Festival and taught extensively on music courses at the University. She served as sole instructor and course coordinator for second-year composition on multiple occasions and developed and taught a new course on the life and works of American composer George Crumb. As artistic director of Spectrum New Music Ensemble, she conducted and coached performances of contemporary chamber works, including thirteen world premieres of compositions by Aberdeen students of various degree levels.  

She was born in Washington, DC in 1990 and moved to Bainbridge Island, Washington in 1998. Having also lived in Southern California and Scotland for a number of years, she has a love of travel and various cultures, and a sense of place or distance often inspires her work. She is currently based in the beautiful Upper Peninsula of Michigan where she lives with her fiancé Thomas LaVoy, a cat named Muffin and a dog named Sandwiches.

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