Richard Festinger

Richard Festinger profile image

Richard Festinger (b. 1 March 1948, Newton, MA) has been a prominent figure in American contemporary music since the early 1980’s.   His work has been widely recognized by for its elegance and emotive power.  Frank J. Oteri, in his notes for the 2011 Tanglewood Festival of Contemporary Music, describes Festinger’s music as “notable for its combination of propulsive energy with an impeccable sense of poise and balance.” 

An early interest in jazz took him to Boston, where he worked with Gary Burton, Herb Pomeroy and Mick Goodrick at the Berkeley School of Music, and he subsequently led his own groups as a jazz performer in the San Francisco Bay area before studying composition with Andrew Imbrie at the University of California in Berkeley.  

A long-time resident of Northern California, Festinger founded the contemporary music ensemble Earplay and in 1990 became Professor of Music Composition at San Francisco State University, where he is also Artistic Director of the Morrison Artists Series, San Francisco’s longest established presenter of chamber music. 

Festinger’s catalogue of works includes more than 60 compositions.  He has collaborated with many of the most distinguished performers dedicated to the championing of living music, as well as such prominent ensembles as the San Francisco Chamber Orchestra, the Redwood Symphony Orchestra, and the Alexander String Quartet. 

His numerous awards and honors include commissions from the Koussevitzky Foundation in the Library of Congress and the Fromm Foundation at Harvard University, and his work has received the support of the National Endowment for the Arts and the Aaron Copland Fund for music.  The American Academy of Arts and Letters has twice recognized his work (Walter Hinrichsen Award and an Academy Recording Award); and he has participated as a featured composer in numerous festivals and residencies throughout North America, Europe and China.

Festinger’s music is published by C.F. Peters Corporation, and Wildcat Canyon Press.  Recordings of his works are available on the Bridge, Centaur, CRI and CRS labels, and a new CD of his chamber music recorded by the New York New Music Ensemble is planned for release in 2013 on the Naxos International label.   


Serenade for Six: I. Allegro moderato
R. Festinger's Incognito (2014): premiered by Winnie Nieh & Steven Eddy
Tapestries (opening) by Richard Festinger
Richard Festinger's Crossfire for Percussion duo