Jonathan D. Kramer was born on 7 December 1942 in Hartford, Connecticut. He received his B.A. magna cum laude from Harvard University and his M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of California at Berkeley. His composition teachers included Karlheinz Stockhausen, Roger Sessions, Leon Kirchner, Seymour Shifrin, Andrew Imbrie, Richard Felciano, Jean-Claude Eloy, Billy Jim Layton, Edwin Dugger, and Arnold Franchetti. He studied theory with David Lewin, criticism with Joseph Kerman, and computer music with John Chowning.

Professor of Composition and Theory at Columbia University since 1988, Jonathan previously taught at Oberlin Conservatory, Yale University and University of Cincinnati. He held visiting appointments at Wesleyan University, King's College of the University of London, the Canberra School of Music, the University of Western Australia, the Rockefeller Study Center in Bellagio (Italy), the Center for New Music and Technology (Berkeley), May in Miami, the ISCM Summer Workshop for Composers (Poland), and the European Mozart Academy (Poland). Jonathan served four years as Program Annotator of the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra, was Annotator of the Cincinnati Symphony since 1980, and a collection of his program notes, Listen to the Music, was published by Schirmer Books. He was the Cincinnati Symphony's Composer-in-Residence and New-Music Advisor from 1984 to 1992 and served as artist in residence of The Moebius Ensemble since 1997. Jonathan produced and hosted several local and national radio programs and represented American Public Radio three times at the International Rostrum of Composers in Paris.

Jonathan's honors included a Barlow Endowment Commission, the Ohio Governor's Award for Individual Artists, three composer Fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, an Independent Research Grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, a fellowship from the New York Foundation for the Arts, the Alienor Harpsichord Composition Award, three Individual Artist Fellowship Grants from the Ohio Arts Council, the Koussevitzky Prize, and the Copland Grant.
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