George Crumb was born in Charleston, West Virginia on 24 October 1929. He studied at the Mason College of Music in Charleston and received the B.Mus. degree in 1950. Thereafter he studied for the Master's degree at the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana under Eugene Weigel. He continued his studies under Boris Blacher at the Hochschule für Musik, Berlin from 1954-1955. He received the D.M.A. in 1959 from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor after studying with Ross Lee Finney.
He first taught theory and analysis at Hollins College, Virginia before being appointed as instructor and assistant professor in piano and composition at the University of Colorado, Boulder in 1958. From 1964-1965 he also acted as creative associate / composer in residence at the Buffalo Center for the Creative and Performing Arts, State University of New York, Buffalo. In 1965 a long association with the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia started with his appointment as assistant professor and then full professor. Since 1983 he is the Annenberg Professor of the Humanities. He retired in May 1997 from teaching.
Most of his vocal compositions are settings of the poetry of Federico García Lorca. He has named Debussy, Mahler and Bartók as the principal influences on his music. He is the recipient of numerous awards:
Elizabeth Croft fellowship for study, Berkshire Music Centre,1955. Fulbright Scholarship, 1955-6. BMI student award, 1956. Rockefeller grant, 1964. National Institute of Arts and Letters grant, 1967. Guggenheim grant, 1967, 1973. Pulitzer Prize (for Echoes of Time and the River), 1968. UNESCO International Rostrum of Composers Award, 1971. Koussevitzky Recording Award, 1971. Fromm grant, 1973. Member, National Institute of Arts and Letters, 1975. Ford grant, 1976. Prince Pierre de Monaco Gold Medal, 1989. Brandeis University Creative Arts Award. Honorary member, Deutsche Akademie der Kunste. Honorary member, International Cultural Society of Korea. Six honorary degrees.