Donald Skirvin received The American Prize in Composition for 2020 in the professional division for shorter choral works. He has received National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) grants together with grants through ArtsWA in Washington State and numerous commissions directly through performing ensembles. He was appointed Resident Composer Emeritus in 2013 for The Esoterics, a Seattle-based a cappella ensemble, after serving fifteen years as Resident Composer for the group for which he has written over forty compositions, a number of which have been accepted into the PROJECT:ENCORE catalog and are recorded and available through Naxos of America. He studied music at the Jordan Conservatory of Music, Indianapolis, and at Indiana University, Bloomington. He is a member of ASCAP, and his music is available through J. W. Pepper, SMP Press, Yelton Rhodes Music, and as self-published works.
Choruses around the US and abroad have performed his music, which is available on eleven CDs. Music critic David Vernier, writing for Classics Today, said that Skirvin's work “is rich in imagery wrought by imaginative use of harmony and apt, sensitive text-setting. And it's also just plain gorgeous music that speaks well for this composer's facility with voices.” Barlow Bradford, renowned composer, teacher, and director of the Utah Chamber Artists has said of Skirvin's music, “It is meaningful, beautiful, heartfelt, (and) technically superb!” Composer and conductor, Karen P. Thomas, has noted that “Skirvin is a skilled and prolific composer of choral music . . . [he] excels at both expressing the texts in music and at fitting his own musical expression to the rhythm of the poetry.”
About choral composition, Skirvin says, “I want to create choral pieces whose music is deeply imbued with the words of the poet. For such a piece to be successful and effective, I think the music must arise seamlessly and inevitably from the words themselves. Anyone who listens to my music can hear that the soundscape is definitely modern. I value melody in my writing as well as rich and sometimes complex harmonic structures and shifting tonal centers. I am fond of writing unusual sonorities that tend, I think, to surprise the listener.”