Eric Whitacre was born in Reno, NE, on January 2, 1970. Though he showed interest in music in his youth, playing in the Douglas High School Band in Minden, NE, he did not begin advanced music studies until he entered the University of Nevada, where his most important teacher was noted Ukrainian composer Virko Baley. Whitacre also studied choral conducting there with David Weiller.
Whitacre earned his master's degree at Juilliard, where he studied composition with David Diamond and John Corigliano. By the mid-'90s Whitacre's choral music was already drawing attention: his 1992 Cloudburst and 1995 Water Night, to date his most popular composition, were rapidly gaining currency. His first recordings appeared in the late '90s and by the turn-of-the-century, Whitacre, barely in his thirties, was internationally recognized as among the most important American composers. And it wasn't just his choral works that were drawing attention: at the 2004 Eric Whitacre Wind Symphony Festival was established in Australia by the Sydney Opera House. Other Whitacre festivals would appear in Venice and Florence, beginning in 2007.
In 2006 the British label Hyperion released a highly acclaimed collection of Whitacre choral music that included Water Night and Cloudburst. More recordings followed, while a parallel stream of performances took place in the concert hall. Whitacre's opera Paradise Lost was premiered in July 2007 in Pasadena, CA, at the Theatre at Boston Court.