Emma Lou Diemer (b. 1927) is a native of Kansas City, MO. She studied piano from an early age, wrote piano pieces as a child, and began to play organ in church at age 13. She decided to be a composer about that time with a strong interest also in piano, taking lessons at the University of Missouri-Kansas City Conservatory (with Wiktor Labunski).
Her degrees in composition are from the Yale School of Music (BM,1949; MM, 1950) and the Eastman School of Music (PhD,1960). She studied composition further in Brussels on a Fulbright Scholarship (1952-53) and at the Berkshire Music Center (summers of 1954 and 1955).
From 1954 through 1957, Diemer taught in schools in the Kansas City area (Park College, William Jewell College, the University of Missouri-Kansas City Conservatory of Music) and was organist in area churches. After receiving her doctorate from Eastman she spent two years (1959-61) as composer-in-residence in the Arlington, VA schools under the Ford Foundation Young Composers Project. She wrote many choral and instrumental works while in Arlington.
From 1962 through 1965 she was a consultant for the Contemporary Music Project of the Music Educators National Conference, taught in the Arlington schools, and in 1962 became organist at Reformation Lutheran Church in Washington, DC. In 1965 she joined the University of Maryland as assistant professor of theory and composition. In 1971 she was appointed to a similar position at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and subsequently became a full professor and, since 1991, professor emerita. Diemer is also organist emerita at First Presbyterian Church in Santa Barbara.
Diemer was instrumental in founding the electronic/computer music center at UCSB and helped to develop the PhD/DMA degrees in composition as well as other aspects of the curriculum.
She has written many works of varying difficulty, from hymns and songs to concertos and symphonies. Diemer's many awards include a Louisville Student Award (for a suite for orchestra), the Arthur Benjamin Award for Quiet Music from Eastman (for the second movement of her second symphony/dissertation), and a Kennedy Center Friedheim Award in Orchestral Music for her 1991 piano concerto. She was composer-in-residence with the Santa Barbara Symphony from 1990-92, and the 1995 Composer of the Year of the American Guild of Organists.
Her music has been published by many firms, and recorded on many labels including Crest, North/South Consonance, Contemporary Record Society, Master Musicians Recordings, Leonarda, and others.