Martha Hill Duncan

Martha Hill Duncan

                                                                                                                                                      Paula Leroux Photography

Martha Hill Duncan, Composer

A native of Houston, Texas, Martha Hill Duncan, began piano lessons at the age of eight and started experimenting with composing and improvising soon after. She was a member of the first graduating class of the Houston High School for Performing and Visual Arts, receiving a diploma in Vocal Music. She earned a Degree in Composition from the University of Texas at Austin where she studied composition with Donald Grantham and piano with Gregory Allen, Danielle Martin, and Errol Haun. In Ithaca, New York she worked with pianist Trudi Borden and composer Robert Palmer and in 1982, immigrated to Canada with her husband, where she continued her musical studies with Samuel Dolin in Toronto.

Martha has enjoyed many collaborative projects within her community of Kingston, Ontario. She has worked with local songwriters, poets, artists, choirs and the Ban Righ Foundation of Queen’s University. Some of the works produced from these joint efforts include This Girl Danced Spring for SSAA & Piano with lyrics by Gary Rasberry, Robins for SSA, Baritone Solo and Piano with poetry by Peter Brassard (to be premiered June 6, 2014), Limestone Etchings, a collection of piano pieces celebrating local Kingston landmarks with artist Spencer Hope and Who Is She?, written for both solo voice and treble choir as a fundraiser for the Ban Righ Foundation of Queen’s University, celebrating influential women.szs

Martha loves working with and writing for singers. Her opera, Searching the Painted Sky with poet/librettist, Janet Windeler Ryan, for the Youth Opera of El Paso, Texas was was premiered with great success at the National Opera Association convention in NYC in January, 2014. Saskatchewan Songs (one woman’s dramatic and nostalgic musical journey of growing up in the prairie province) was composed for mezzo soprano and poet Bonnie Cutsforth Hubert. These recently had their US and Canadian premiere at the University of Pennsylvania, Altoona and the University of Saskatchewan. Other collaborative vocal works include Florals, written for soprano Elizabeth McDonald and Martha’s current project Porch Songs for baritone, Gregory Brookes and tenor, Darrell Bryan. 

An ongoing interest and recognition of her adopted country, Canada, has culminated in several song cycles and collections for voice, including Singing in the Northland: A Celebration of Canadian Poetry in Song and Summer, 5 Art Songs (Descriptive poetry inspired by a childhood in Georgian Bay by Linda Jacques). As composer and artistic director of She Sings!, a Kingston women’s choir, Martha has also produced several works for treble choir, many based on native Canadian texts. These include Song of the Stars, Lady Icicle and Lullaby of the Iroquois. Her set Star Prayers for SSA and Piano was a co-winner in the 2005 Ruth Watson Henderson Choral Composition Competition. Choirs that have commissioned her work include Aurora, Melos Chamber Choir, Pro Arte Singers, and the Limestone Children’s Choir. Her latest choral commission is through Graphite Publishing of Minneapolis and their Consortium project.

In addition to her writing, Martha has also been a dedicated private piano teacher for over twentyfive years. She has found inspiration through her students and has written many solo and ensemble pieces, of varying degrees of difficulty, with them in mind. Many of these collections are included in music educational listings of the Royal Conservatory of Music, the Canadian National Conservatory of Music and Conservatory Canada. Selections from these works, as well as The Sunken Garden, commissioned and performed internationally by Mexican-Canadian pianist Jorge Suarez, are included in the ACNMP (Association of Canadian New Music Projects) Contemporary Showcase syllabus.

A piano examiner for the Royal Conservatory of Music, Martha is also a frequent adjudicator and clinician for music festivals and composition competitions across Canada. She is a member of SOCAN, an associate composer of the Canadian Music Centre, and a member of the Association of Canadian Women Composers. She has served on the local executives of ORMTA (Ontario Registered Music Teachers Association) and the SAO (Suzuki Association of Ontario). Martha is also a founding member of Red Leaf Pianoworks a self-publishing composers’ collective and websource for new piano repertoire.

She lives in Kingston, Ontario with her husband, Martin, and has two grown children. For more information, please visit