Dr. Lori Celeste Hicks’ musical roots lie in Detroit, Michigan—a native of the city, she gained her first introduction to music at Detroit’s Oak Grove AME Church. In this church, Hicks performed her first solos, took her first piano lessons, and accompanied the church choir. As she grew older, Hicks attended Renaissance High School, where she joined the school choir. In an interview with Patrick D. McCoy, Hicks recalled that she initially wasn’t interested in the school choir because they weren’t performing gospel music, but quickly grew to enjoy it.
At age 13, Hicks first heard “Psalm 57” by Betty Jackson King. Inspired by King’s masterful use of colors, Hicks decided to try composition. She began writing her own music, and eventually went to Kentucky State University, where she studied with Andrew Smith and sang in the concert choir. She continued on to Bowling Green State where she received a Master of Music in vocal performance, and then completed a Doctorate of Musical Arts from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.
Hicks has written and arranged several solo voice, choral, small ensemble, and operatic works that continue to be performed across the country. In 2001, her choral arrangement “Ride On” was awarded first place at the National Association of Negro Musicians Young Composer Competition, making her the first female recipient of the award. In 2011, she became the youngest composer commissioned by the Negro Spiritual Scholarship Foundation (NSSF), and has since been commissioned by the Cincinnati Women’s Chorus, the Charleston Spiritual Ensemble, and EXIGENCE. Hicks’ debut 2014 CD “Music Of My Voice” features a collection of spirituals and songs all composed, arranged, and performed by Hicks.
In addition to composition, Hicks has a rich and varied career as a soprano, composer, voice coach, professor, and the owner of LCH Studios. She is deeply invested in music of the Black Diaspora, and has embarked on numerous projects related to Black Music and African American Repertoire. Highlights of these projects include her 2021 Black Women Composers Summit, her lecture workshop “From The Black Church To The Opera Stage: Transforming Students from the Gospel Belt to The Classical Sound,” and her recital series “Music of My Voice: A Portrayal of the African American Experience through Classical Music: In Stage, Song, and Spirit”—a multimedia presentation of songs and arias by Black composers, which continues to be performed at universities and churches.
This profile was created in 2023 as part of the Song of America Fellowship Program, a project of the Classic Song Research Initiative between the Hampsong Foundation and the University of Michigan, School of Music, Theatre, and Dance.
Lori Hicks: Sheet Music
Composer(s): Lori Hicks
Song(s): I Wanna Die Easy, Mount Zion, I Want Jesus, Heaven Spirituals, Sence You Went AwayBuy via Dr. Hicks' website