Dawn Sonntag's music intimately connects her listeners with the people, places, and personal experiences that inspire and inform her work. Her works have been commissioned and performed by the Cleveland Opera Theater, the Hartford Opera Theater, and Opera from Scratch in Halifax, Nova Scotia; the Almeda Trio; the Fairbanks Arts Festival resident ensembles Corvus and Concert Black and String Symphony; the Delgani, Del Sol, and Amphion String Quartets, the Orchid Ensemble in Vancouver, Canada; and by university, church and community choirs across the U.S. Her art songs have been recorded by Michelle Murray Viertek and Megan Ihnen on the Albany and Parma labels and are included in the new Modern Music for New Singers: 21st Century Art Song. Sonntag has been honored as the Music Teachers National Association Composer of the Year in both Washington State (2021) and Ohio (2010). Her first opera, Verlorene Heimat, for which she also composed the libretto, is a finalist in the 2021 American Prize for opera composition.
Sonntag has been composer/performer-in-residence at the Youngstown State University New Music Festival, Christopher Newport University, and the Visby International Centre for Composers in Visby, Sweden, where she was the 2019 recipient of a Swedish government intercultural exchange fellowship. Sonntag has also been the recipient an American-Scandinavian Foundation creative grant and a U.S. government Foreign Language Area Studies fellowship for advanced study of Norwegian at Oslo University to further her interest in Scandinavian vocal music, and as winner of the Kenwood Symphony’s Masters Aria and Concerto competition she performed Grieg’s orchestrated art songs in Norwegian. An avid Alpine hiker and lover of the outdoors. she has been a three-time participant in the Composing in the Wilderness program in Alaska.
Self-taught on piano until the age of 18, Sonntag joined the music staff at the Milwaukee Ballet Company at the age of 20. She has performed extensively as a collaborative pianist with professional singers, instrumentalists, and choirs. She began vocal studies with Yolanda Marculescu at the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee and has performed opera, oratorio, art song, and jazz in Germany and the U.S. She was winner of the Inge Pitler Prize for lied performance in both piano and voice at the Hochschule für Kirchenmusik in Heidelberg, Sonntag has conducted university, community, and church choirs across the U.S. and in Germany and Norway. Sonntag holds a Doctor of Musical Arts in voice performance and composition from the University of Minnesota; a Master of Music in choral conducting from the Ohio State University; an Individualized Master of Arts from Antioch University’s McGregor School of the Arts in Tübingen, Germany; a graduate artist diploma in lied and chamber music piano performance from the Hochschule für Kirchenmusik, Heidelberg; and a Bachelor of Music in voice performance from the University of Texas at El Paso. She also studied composition in Paris, France under the auspices of the European American Musical Alliance. Sonntag is a lecturer in music composition at Pacific Lutheran University (Tacoma, Washington) and has also taught at Gonzaga University (Spokane, Washington), the University of Saint Catherine (St. Paul, MN.) and at Hiram College (near Cleveland, OH), where she also served as chair of the Music Department and was the recipient of several teaching and creative scholarship awards.