John C. Griffin is a pianist and composer from Kalamazoo, Michigan. Born March 10, 1979, he received both his Bachelor’s degree (2002, magna cum laude) and Master’s degree (2004) in music composition from Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo. While at WMU, he studied piano with Lori Sims and composition with Richard Adams, Curtis Curtis-Smith, and Robert Ricci. As an undergraduate, he was the recipient of a four-year WMU Medallion Scholarship. As a graduate student, he was awarded the Graduate College Fellowship for the 2002-2003 academic year. In May 2008, he received his Ph.D. in composition from the University of Iowa, where he studied composition with David Gompper and electronic music with Lawrence Fritts. He also worked as a teaching assistant for freshman and sophomore Musicianship and Theory classes, as well as Fundamentals of Music for Majors. For two years, he served as President of the University of Iowa chapter of the Society of Composers, Inc. During his final year at UI, he was the coordinator of four Composers Workshop concerts and an SCI Composers Concert.

In 1999, Dr. Griffin was first runner-up in the WMUK Fanfare Competition with his Golden Anniversary Fanfare for brass quintet. In 2004, he was the winner of the Western Michigan University Graduate Winds Composition Competition for his wind octet Three Mood Shifts, premiered on March 17 of that year. On February 10 of the same year, he organized a campus composers recital at WMU. He has also provided music transcriptions and arrangements for two productions at the Kalamazoo Civic Theater: Dark of the Moon (1999) and A Woman Called Truth (2002). He was commisioned by the Kalamazoo Civic Theater to write incidental music for its production of Elizabeth Rex, which ran in April of 2005. In May 2008, he was composer and musical director for the premiere performance of Dust Town, as part of the Iowa New Play Festival. He has contributed incidental music for theatrical productions of Marvin’s Room, produced by Farmers Alley Theatre in Kalamazoo, as well as The Three Musketeers, produced by WMU, and several "All Ears Theatre" radio plays. 

Other original works include Counterrevolution for solo violin, originally performed by Daniel Vega-Albela; Suite for Solo Saxophone, composed for Matthew Lefebvre; Dance Suite for Viola and Piano, premiered by Katarzyna Bugaj and John Griffin; Waves and Ripples for clarinetist Tim Zehr; and Shards for flutist Lisa Bost-Sandberg. Counterrevolution was selected for performance at the College Music Society International Conference in Zagreb, Croatia, in June of 2009. Shards was premiered at the 2009 SCI Region V Conference in Dubuque, Iowa, with additional performances at the UAHuntsville New Music Festival, the 2011 CMS International Conference, and the 2013 SCI National Conference, among others.

Compositions written at the University of Iowa include Ellisonia for saxophone quartet, inspired by the works of Harlan Ellison, Ozymandias for baritone voice and chamber ensemble, based on the sonnet by Percy Bysshe Shelley, High Pressure for brass quintet, and Concertino for Piano and Chamber Ensemble, his Doctoral dissertation. His piece for electronic media and video, Man and Machine (with digital animation by Matthew Priest), was selected for performance at the Imagine II Electroacoustic Music Festival in Memphis, Tennessee on November 2, 2006. Another work Sold American! for marimba and tape, was performed at the Electroacoustic Juke Joint in Cleveland, Mississippi, on November 10, 2007.

From January 2009 to April 2017, Dr. Griffin was a professor of music at Western Michigan University, where he lectured in Music Theory, Aural Skills, Composition, Counterpoint, and Musical Style and Form for Dancers. Griffin also currently works as an accompanist for instrumentalists and singers and has served as the pianist for the new music ensemble Opus 21. In February 2010, he was hired as the accompanist for the Kalamazoo Singers choral group. Additionally, he was Associate Director of Music at St. Catherine of Siena Church in Portage, Michigan, where he led several music groups. In 2017 Griffin was appointed music director of Ss. John’s and Bernard’s Churches in Benton Harbor, Michigan.

In 2009, he was commissioned by the new music ensemble Opus 21 to compose the piece Bone and Stone for cello and percussion, premiered at the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts. Other commissions include When Music Sounds for SATB chorus, piano, and string orchestra, premiered by the Kalamazoo Singers. He is the recipient of an ASCAPlus Award, a semi-finalist for the American Prize in Composition - Choral Division, and a Finalist of the International Music Prize for Excellence in Composition. Recent works include Aggravated Avians for the Birds on a Wire new music ensemble at WMU, Pidgin Piano for pianist Nicholas Phillips, and Pointercount for flute and tuba, commisssioned by the Extreme Duo. His solo piano composition Playin' and Prayin' was included in Nicholas Phillips's album American Vernacular, while another piano piece Variations on "Barbara Allen," was featured on Phoenix Park-Kim's album Memories & Variations




Current Projects