Biography

A Texas native, Martha Hill Duncan began piano lessons at the age of eight and later received a diploma in vocal music in the first graduating class of The Houston High School for Performing and Visual Arts. At The University of Texas at Austin she earned a degree in composition studying with composer, Donald Grantham and pianists, Gregory Allen, Danielle Martin, and Errol Haun. In Ithaca, New York she worked with pianist Trudi Borden and composer Robert Palmer and in 1982, moved to Canada with her husband, astrophysicist Martin Duncan. In Toronto she continued her musical studies at the Royal Conservatory of Music with composer Sam Dolin.

In recognition of her adopted country, many of Martha’s vocal and choral works are set to Canadian texts.  Some of these songs have won awards in both American and Canadian choral and art song competitions.  Recent vocal collaborations and commissions include Saskatchewan Songs with poet and contralto, Bonnie Cutsforth-Huber,  Florals for soprano, Elizabeth McDonald, Porch Songs for baritone Gregory Brookes and Step to the Fiddle, poetry by Janet Windeler Ryan, for the 2014-15 Children’s Choir Commissioning Consortium. (Graphite Publishing)  In 2011, Martha and librettist Janet Windeler Ryan joined forces to write the original opera, Searching the Painted Sky, for The Youth Opera of El Paso.  It was premiered at the National Opera Association convention in New York City in January 2014.

In addition to her vocal writing,  Martha is also known for her piano compositions. Many of these works owe at least part of their inspiration to her longtime career as a piano teacher and as well to memorable places she has lived or visited.  Some of these as well as some of her art songs appear in the syllabi of The Royal Conservatory of Music, Conservatory Canada and Contemporary Showcase. Several pieces also appear in the Northern Lights and Making Tracks series of The Canadian National Conservatory of Music. Some piano collection titles include Isla Vista Suite, Cottage Days, The Sunken Garden, Precipitations and Limestone Etchings.  Her latest piano suite, Zarzamora, 2014, is loosely based on five Spanish street names from her earlier life in Austin and San Antonio, Texas.

Martha is also a founding member of Red Leaf Pianoworks, a composers’ collective and websource for new piano repertoire. Since 2007, this collaborative self-publishing group of award-winning composers has been steadily making it’s way into the educational music market. She has also been the artistic director and conductor of the Kingston, Ontario women’s choir, She Sings!since 2004. Several of her works for treble choir have resulted from this association, including  Star Prayers,  Song of the Stars, Lullaby of the Iroquois, A Child’s Song of Christmas, This Girl Danced Spring and She Marries a Violinist.  A piano examiner for The Royal Conservatory of Music, Martha is also a clinician and frequent adjudicator.  She lives in Kingston, Ontario with her husband and has two grown children, Alex, a mathematician and Claire, a singer, actress and voice over artist.

Honours and Awards

2005Star Prayers for SSA and Piano : Winner of 2005 Ruth Watson Henderson Choral Composition

Commissions/Collaborations

Memberships