After purchasing an electric guitar at a flea market for $15 when he was a teenager, Lansing McLoskey soon discovered that writing punk music had a “do it yourself” kind of vibe. With his new found passion for the more popular genre, he wasted no time in giving up piano lessons. In the early 1980’s he would become the guitarist and songwriter for punk rock bands in San Francisco.
After returning home from his mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (often mistakenly referred to as the “Mormon Church”), McLoskey’s taste in music soon changed after he heard two songs – Luciano Berio’s “Sinfonia” and Igor Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring.” The songs gave him a new perspective on life. He said, “I didn’t know this music existed. It was what I was looking for my whole life, I just didn’t know it and I decided immediately, ‘Well, that’s it. I have to be a composer.’”
That was only the beginning. According to his official website, his long and successful music career includes a Ph.D. from Harvard University, with additional studies at Det Kongelige Danske Musikkonservatorium (The Royal Danish Conservatory of Music), the Wellesley Composers Conference, and the Advanced Masterclass at the Aspen Music School. He holds degrees with honors from the University of California, Santa Barbara, and University of Southern California Thorton School of Music.
McLoskey has also won more than three dozen national and international awards, including the prestigious Goddard Lieberson Fellowship from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, awarded to a “composer of exceptional gifts,” a 2019 Bogliasco Center Fellowship, the 2018 Aaron Copland House Award and commission, The 2016 American Prize in Choral Composition, and the 2016 Robert Avalon International Competition for Composers.
Most recently his original composition, “Zealot Canticles: An oratorio for tolerance,” which took almost seven years to complete and was the recipient of the prestigious Barlow 2015 commission, was nominated for a GRAMMY Award for Best Choral Performance in 2019. Although the award technically goes to conductor Donald Nally and The Crossing (a professional chamber choir) for the performance, McLoskey played a key role in the overall achievement of the piece.
Speaking about the Grammy Award-winning performance, McLoskey commented, “Audience members were in tears. During the recording sessions, the musicians themselves had to stop because they were so moved that they were crying and couldn’t even continue playing. I think it’s really my crowning achievement in my career as a composer.”
The writing of “Zealot Canticles: An oratorio for tolerance” required patience and prayer on McLoskey’s part. He said that he often fasted and prayed while he composed. Although it is a different kind of oratorio than Handel’s Messiah, McLoskey said that it is still a sacred piece – largely because the act of composing in and of itself is sacred. He further stated, “For me, there’s really no distinction, in a way, between secular and sacred music. For me, composing and creating is a sacred endeavor.”
According to thechurchnews.com, “McLoskey isn’t the first Latter-day Saint to have made his mark in the Grammy world. In 1959, the Tabernacle Choir won a Grammy for Best Pop Performance by a Vocal Group or Chorus. Gladys Knight has won seven Grammy Awards over the course of her musical career and Harvey Fletcher won a posthumous award in 2016 for his achievements in stereophonic sound.”