Kent Tritle is among the most visible American organists, playing the instrument in regular positions at New York's Cathedral of St. John the Divine and with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra. He is also a noted choral conductor and an important educator in the New York area.
Tritle was born in Spirit Lake, Iowa, on August 26, 1960. A local teacher, Dorothy Hoien, gave him piano and organ lessons. He enrolled at the University of South Dakota but felt unchallenged by his courses there and transferred to the University of Iowa. Tritle got a summer job as the music director at the Okoboji Summer Theatre near his hometown. The theatre was sponsored by Stephens College in Missouri, where an organ instructor heard Tritle play and told him that with his skills, he should head for New York. He took the advice, applied, and was admitted to the Juilliard School, where he earned undergraduate and graduate degrees in organ and choral conducting.
In 1989, Tritle joined the staff of the Church of St. Ignatius Loyola as organist and choir director. There he created a new series, "Sacred Music in a Sacred Space," and supervised the installation of the church's impressive 68-stop English-built organ. Remaining at St. Ignatius Loyola until 2011, Tritle also served as music director of the Dessoff Choirs from 1996 to 2004, leading the Dessoff Choirs in concerts with the New York Philharmonic, the Cleveland Orchestra, and the San Francisco Symphony, among other major groups. He became even more visible when he assumed the post of organist with the New York Philharmonic, participating in performances and recordings with almost all of the orchestra's regular and guest conductors. Tritle continued to take on additional responsibilities, becoming music director of the Oratorio Society of New York in 2006 and later of the professional chorus Musica Sacra. He also found time to give solo organ recitals at such major international venues as the Leipzig Gewandhaus, the Zurich Tonhalle, and St. Sulpice, Paris. In 2011, Tritle moved from the Church of St. Ignatius Loyola to the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, where he serves as organist and director of cathedral music. Tritle joined the faculty of the Juilliard School in 2006 and has been the director of choral activities at the Manhattan School of Music since 2008. He sometimes returns to Spirit Lake to give organ recitals at a local Methodist church and to conduct area high school choirs.
In addition to his New York Philharmonic recordings with conductors Kurt Masur and Andrew Litton, he has recorded choral and organ music for the MSR Classics and Pro Organo labels. In 2018, he recorded the Paul Moravec oratorio Sanctuary Road for the Naxos label, which was released in 2020.