Sara Carina Graef’s music has been performed around the United States as well as in Canada, Turkey, Hungary, Austria, Mexico, and the Czech Republic. She was awarded the inaugural Northridge Composition Prize for her orchestral score, night shows to my eyes the stars, and won the Premio Citta’ di Pescara Composition Competition in Italy for her piano solo, Nottanosti. She was the recipient of the Sadye J. Moss Endowed Musical Composition Prize and the Hans J. Salter Award for Composition, and was elected to membership in Phi Kappa Phi and Pi Kappa Lambda. She has held residencies at the Helene Wurlitzer Foundation, the Ucross Foundation, the Ragdale Foundation, the Hambidge Center, the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, the Norfolk Chamber Music Festival, the Atlantic Center for the Arts, the Ernest Bloch Festival, and the Oregon Bach Festival Composers’ Symposium. In the summer of 2014 she served on the faculty as Composer-in-Residence at the Luzerne Music Center in New York.


Her recent commission, “Blue Vishudda,” for violin and piano, was commissioned by celebrated virtuoso Elizabeth Pitcairn for her legendary “Red Mendelssohn” 1720 Stradivarius violin – the real life instrument on which the 1998 film “The Red Violin” was based. Pitcairn premiered the piece in November of 2014 to a sold out audience at Bard College’s Frank Gehry-designed Fisher Center for the Performing Arts in New York. Graef’s song cycle, Stone, for soprano, trumpet, and piano, was commissioned by performers Nancy Maria Balach and John Schuesselin, both of whom serve on the faculty of the University of Mississippi (Ole Miss), where they premiered the work in the spring of 2014. The piece, inspired by the experiences of poet and writer Carol Samson – a teacher at Columbine High School in Colorado at the time of the 1999 tragedy – was subsequently performed by faculty at the Luzerne Music Center. Other 2014 premieres included Brass Bucket for brass quintet, which was commissioned by the Luzerne Music Center Faculty Brass Quintet in 2014 and subsequently named the third place winner in the University of Wisconsin, River Falls Workshop and Competition out of 77 entries from eight countries. Her piano solo, Nottanosti, was recently chosen to be recorded by New York pianist Jai Jeffryes as part of a CD of new piano works, to be released by Steel Wig Records in 2015.

Other notable performances include her commission from the North Mississippi Symphony Orchestra, Cooling in the Peppermint Wind, which has been performed by both the NMSO and the Arkansas Philharmonic Orchestra, Softly Dancing from the Polar Sky and U.S. Patent No. 821,393. FLYING MACHINE. O. & W. Wright, both for symphonic wind ensemble, as well as an arrangement of Cooling in the Peppermint Wind for symphonic wind ensemble, her arrangement of the Welsh carol, All Through the Night, for orchestra and children’s chorus, Consilience for violin and piano, and Building 58 for player piano, which was part of the Los Angeles-based “Player Piano Project” composers’ consortium commissioning project. In addition to concert music, she has music-directed and composed music for various film, live theater, and television projects. 

Dr. Graef is a Professor of Music at California State University, Los Angeles. She earned her Bachelor of Music in flute performance and composition from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, and her Master of Music and Doctor of Musical Arts in composition from the University of Southern California. She served as the President of Friends of Music at Cal State L.A. for eight years, helping to raise money for scholarships for Cal State L.A. music majors, and has served on the board of the Los Angeles Chapter of the American Composers Forum.

Dr. Graef teaches composition as well all levels of undergraduate and graduate theory and analysis, musicianship, form, and counterpoint. She founded the Composer/Performer Collective at California State University, Los Angeles in 2012. The group consists of student composers and performers, engaged specifically to collaborate and learn about the process of creating new music through mutual cooperation, discussion, rehearsal, and performance.

In addition to her work in music, Dr. Graef is passionate about photography and nature, and served for several years as the Stranding Coordinator for the Alaska Whale Foundation - a non-profit research organization in Southeast Alaska. She looks forward to the world premiere of her daughter in Summer, 2015.


BIO