Leo Sowerby (1895-1968) was an American composer and church musician, and winner of the Pulitzer Prize for music in 1946 for his cantata, Canticle of the Sun. He was often called “The Dean of American Church Music” in the early-to- mid-20th century. He was born in Grand Rapids, MI where he began to compose at the age of ten. His interest in the organ began at the age of 15 and was self-taught on the instrument. He studied composition with Arthur Olaf Andersen at the American Conservatory of Music, Chicago. Early recognition came when his Violin Concerto was premiered in 1913 by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. He spent time in France during World War I in the role of bandmaster. In 1921 he was awarded the Rome Prize (from the American Academy in Rome), the first composer to receive this award. He joined the American Conservatory of Music as faculty in 1924.
In 1927 he became organist-choirmaster at St James Episcopal Church, Chicago, which was consecrated as a cathedral while he was there (1955). Previously, Sowerby was associate organist at Fourth Presbyterian Church of Chicago (1919).
In 1962, after his retirement from St James, he was called to Washington National Cathedral to become the founding director of the College of Church Musicians, a position he held until his death in 1968. He is buried in the Washington National Cathedral, Washington, D.C.
His substantial output includes over 500 works in every genre except opera and ballet