Justin Rito (b. 1986) composes energetic and eclectic concert music that takes inspiration equally from both the classical canon and contemporary pop culture. His music explores dense, expressionist textures, rock-inspired groove, lyrical melodies, and the interesting intersections that can result from their combinations.
Justin’s recent projects and collaborations have included Groove Mantra (2015) for taiko drums, commissioned by the Strike Percussion Ensemble, Set (2015), commissioned by the Arx Duo, and What it is to Breathe (2015), commissioned by Adrienne Schroeder. He is currently working on a commission for tuba and percussion quartet for Ed Mallett, Gwen Dease, and the Tuba Bach Festival, and his future projects include a marimba duet for the Arx Duo and a work for flugel horn and wind ensemble for Josh Ganger. His compositions have been performed throughout the United States including conferences for the College Music Society, Society of Composers, inc., the North American Saxophone Alliance, and 60×60, and festivals including the Florida State New Music Festival, fresh inc, the Zeitgeist New Music Festival, and the Manchester New Music Festival. His works have also won the Van Galen Composition Prize, Michigan State University Honor’s Competition, and the Central Michigan University Composition Contest.
An active and energetic supporter of new music, Justin founded a concert series called “Unwind” in East Lansing, Michigan, which includes casual performances of contemporary concert music in bars. He also serves as the musical coordinator for the Sonic Salon series at the Broad Art Museum in East Lansing. As as student in 2010, Justin founded and directed the Central Michigan University New Music Ensemble, which remains an active student-run organization today.
Justin began his musical training as a classical pianist, and remains an active collaborative performer. Having always enjoyed popular music, he began exploring composition as a creative outlet through song-writing, and eventually turned to concert music during his undergraduate studies in music education at Alma College. He went on to study composition with David Gillingham and Jay Batzner at Central Michigan University, and is currently pursuing a doctorate with Ricardo Lorenz at Michigan State University. Justin also studied privately with David Maslanka in 2013, and attended the fresh inc festival run by the Fifth House Ensemble in 2015. In addition to his formal training in composition, Justin received a Masters degree in Music Theory from the University of Western Ontario in 2013, and has recently presented research at conferences for the College Music Society and Manchester New Music Festival. Later this year, Justin will present a paper at the International Conference on Minimalism in Helsinki, Finland.
Justin has served as an adjunct instructor of music at Michigan State University and Alma College, where he has taught composition, music theory, and performance at the undergraduate and graduate levels. He currently lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan with his wife Erika, where his free time generally includes running, reading, and craft beer.
For more information about Justin, check out his website.
Justin Rito – Reaching | Failing
for violin, viola, cello, double bass