Home » Jazz Musicians » Deanna Witkowski

Deanna Witkowski

Known for her adventurous, engaging music that heals the soul, pianist-composer-vocalist Deanna Witkowski moves with remarkable ease between Brazilian, jazz, classical, and sacred music. The award- winning bandleader releases her seventh recording, Force of Nature (MCG Jazz) in January 2022, a companion piece to her biography, Mary Lou Williams: Music For The Soul (Liturgical Press), published in September 2021. The two projects cap a twenty-year deep dive into the ground-breaking impact of Williams’ life and music, making Witkowski one of the few living authorities on the iconic pianist. As a sought after Williams expert, she has presented at the Kennedy Center, Duke University, Fordham University, and performed Williams’ compositions as a featured guest with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra.

In concert and on recordings, Witkowski’s explosive performances combine virtuosity and heart, telling stories that reveal her innate curiosity of the human condition. Her albums range from powerhouse arrangements of Cole Porter standards (Wide Open Window; Length of Days) to sparkling trio re- imaginings of traditional hymns (Makes the Heart to Sing: Jazz Hymns) to solo piano that blurs the lines between Brazilian, jazz, and classical (Raindrop: Improvisations with Chopin). Witkowski has recorded with Grammy nominees John Patitucci, Kate McGarry, and Donny McCaslin, and has performed and toured with renowned vocalists Lizz Wright, Nnenna Freelon, Erin Bode, Filó Machado, and Vanessa Rubin.

Dedicated to bringing communities together through jazz, Witkowski has worked as a guest music leader in over one hundred churches across the United States. Her weekly video series, “Off the Page: Sacred Jazz,” shares practical resources for church musicians and her jazz hymn arrangements have been purchased by over 500 churches.

A prolific choral composer, Witkowski has won multiple competitions for her concert and sacred works. Commissions and new compositions have been funded by organizations including the New York State Council on the Arts (for her Afro-Brazilian project, the Nossa Senhora Suite) and the Choral Arts Initiative PREMIERE|Project Festival.

Following in the steps of her chosen soul companion and lifelong mentor, Witkowski relocated to Mary Lou Williams’ hometown of Pittsburgh in 2020. She is a second-year doctoral student in jazz studies at the University of Pittsburgh.


2021: Theodore Mother Guerin Research Travel Grant (University of Notre Dame) for “Writing Friendships: Letter Correspondence Between Jazz Pianist Mary Lou Williams and Women Religious, 1961–1981” 2021: SATB modern justice anthem, “We Walk in Love,” is selected as the sole composition to celebrate Music in Our Schools Month by the 15,000 teacher member Pennsylvania State Education Association, Mideastern Region, for a 32-voice virtual choir comprised of students from ten high schools. 2017: Sacatar Institute Fellowship, Bahia, Brazil (2018 eight week residency) 2016: New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA) fiscal sponsorship for new Afro-Brazilian project, the Nossa Senhora Suite 2015: Berger-Carter Research Fund grant recipient, Rutgers Institute of Jazz Studies, NJ Research on jazz in Catholicism in the late 1960s/early 1970s 2011: Finalist for a Fulbright research/teaching award in São Paulo, Brazil 2002: Winner of the Great American Jazz Piano Competition, Jacksonville, FL Fan Award 2016: Hothouse New York Fans Decision Jazz Award- best pianist Composing- Awards and commissions 2017: Winner of the ChoralArt New England Carol Contest (SATB a cappella piece, “A Christmas Carol”) 2017: Winner of the Colorado Chorale commissioning contest (2018 premiere) 2017: Winner of the Annual Hymn Search of The Hymn Society in the US and Canada (“We Belong to God”) 2017: Justice Choir call for scores: SATB song, “We Walk in Love,” is selected for the Justice Choir Songbook, Vol. 1 2017: St. Peter Episcopal Church, Astabula, OH (SA commission, “Who Do You Say?”) 2016: MusicSpoke: Selected as a MusicSpoke affiliated composer 2016: Lutheran Arts’ Martin Luther Hymn Prize recipient (new hymn and anthem commission) 2016: Illinois-ACDA Composition Contest Winner (for SSAA piece, “Where Shadow Chases Light”) 2015: Composer-Librettist Studio at New Dramatists, New York One of five composers selected for the annual music-theatre workshop 2015: The Astoria Choir Call for Scores Winner (for SSAATTB piece, “Glistening Lily”) 2013: The American Prize in Choral Composition semifinalist (for “Glistening Lily”) 2013-15: Park Avenue Christian Church, New York Over fifteen original works for Sanctuary Choir, Gospel Choir, and congregation 2010: United Methodist Women’s Assembly, St. Louis, MO (theme song for 6000 attendees) 2004: Concentus Women’s Choir, Rochester, NY (SSAA commission, ‘I learned that her name was Proverb’)


Bailey's Bundles
Album Review
Take Five With...
Album Review
Radio & Podcasts
Album Review
Read more articles
MUSIC PRAISE: Witkowski's playing is consistently thrilling, and her musical imagination seems boundless. -Rick Anderson, All Music Guide

One of the best of the new generation of jazz piano players. -Bruce Crowther, Jazz Journal International

PRAISE FOR DEANNA'S BOOK, MARY LOU WILLIAMS: MUSIC FOR THE SOUL: "A beautifully written and expertly researched biography of one of the most fascinating Catholic artists of our time. Deanna Witkowski, a musician herself, brings to life a whole era in this engrossing new book about art, music, love, perseverance, and faith." -James Martin, SJ, author of Learning to Pray

Read more

Primary Instrument




Willing to teach

Advanced only


Concert Schedule

Album Discography

Recordings: As Leader | As Sideperson

Force of Nature

MCG Jazz


Makes the Heart to...

Tilapia Records



Tilapia Records


From This Place

Tilapia Records


Length of Days



Wide Open Window

Khaeon World Music



From: Force of Nature
By Deanna Witkowski

Kings of Orient (We Three Kings)

From: Makes the Heart to Sing: Jazz...
By Deanna Witkowski

Light that Shimmers

From: Raindrop: Improvisations with...
By Deanna Witkowski



Get more of a good thing!

Our weekly newsletter highlights our top stories, our special offers, and upcoming jazz events near you.