Born in Wisconsin, Hoiby grew up a piano prodigy as a child. He earned his Bachelor of Music at the University of Wisconsin in 1947, when the university was a haven for musicians fleeing World War II Europe. He subsequently studied at Mills College until completing his Master of Music in 1952.
Despite his original intention to become a concert pianist, Hoiby took up composition upon his acceptance into the Curtis Institute to study with Gian Carlo Menotti. (However, Hoiby took up the piano again after many years of focus on composition and, following his debut recital at Alice Tully Hall in 1978, performed frequently in recitals throughout the United States.) Hoiby passed away on March 28, 2011 in New York City after a short illness.
Operatic, choral, and vocal music comprises the bulk of Hoiby's output. His music follows the romantic traditions developed by Menotti and Barber, characterized by lyricism and a touch of humor. He rejected trends of the 20th century, such as atonality and minimalism, and preferred to write in a simple diatonic language with some venturing into chromaticism.
Since the 1980s, Hoiby's music has achieved more attention, with more and more performances and recordings appearing on the scene.
Source: Richard Jackson and Walter G. Simmons' article in the New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians