Theophane Hytrek was born on February 28, 1915, the daughter of Stanislaus and Mary Hytrek, named Albina, in the town of Stuart, Nebraska, in a music loving family. In her own words, she says, "I started music when I was eight years old. Music was our love at home. We had a little reed organ; later my parents bought our neighbor's piano. No one had to tell me to practice. My oldest brother learned the clarinet. A second brother and one of my sisters played the violin. Our home became the teenage center of the neighborhood, where our friends from the school orchestra would come together to make music."
As a college student, Theophane showed increasing skill in the area of composition. While doing private study in advanced counterpoint at the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music (Milwaukee), she diligently explored the world of harmony and musical analysis. She remembers: "Then one day I felt I had crossed the threshold, and that I was now on the inside of a composer's laboratory and no longer on the outside looking in."
After completing an advanced degree in organ from the conservatory in 1941, Hytrek, a member of the School Sisters of St. Francis, Milwaukee, taught music at Alverno College. During this time, she commuted once a week for four years to DePaul University in Chicago to study composition with Samuel Lieberson. In 1945, Theophane completed the FAGO examination and in 1948 earned her master's degree in composition from DePaul University. During the summer of 1946, she studied with Marcel Dupre while he was visiting-professor at the University of Chicago. She considered him a major influence in her musical life.
In 1953, Hytrek began studies for a doctorate at the Eastman School of Music, where she was a composition student of Bernard Rogers. Her "Prelude and Allegro for Oboe and Piano," in the style of Dello Joio, was awarded first place in 1960 by the National Association of College Wind and Percussion Instructors. She received her doctorate in 1957 with a major in composition.
She was the chairperson of the Alverno College music department from 1956-1968, remaining there as full professor until 1984. In 1989, she was awarded the title of professor emerita. During her tenure as department chairperson, majors in applied music, music education, and music therapy increased dramatically. During the 1960's, a course of study leading to a Certificate in Church Music was made available under Hytrek's leadership.
Professionally, Theophane was significantly active in the forefront of national organizations as a planner, board member, presenter, and performing musician, the formation of the National Catholic Music Educators Association (NCMEA) in 1942, the Church Music Association of America in 1966, the Composers Forum for Catholic Worship in 1970, and the annual Symposium for Church composers and Liturgists begun in 1981, she being the co-founder. She was an active member of the American Guild of Organists (AGO) for over 50 years serving as national registrar from 1971-1974 and councillor from 1975-1979. Since 1981, she was a member of the Guild's certification committee and helped establish the CAGO examination. Recitals, masterclasses, and workshops for the AGO and other professional organizations were a natural part of her life.
Special commissions invited significant compositions from Theophane, such as "Psalm 83 (84)," "Psalms," "Festival Fanfare," and "Postlude-Partita on the Old One-Hundredth." Liturgical renewal spawned many compositions such as Masses, motets, psalm settings, music for liturgical rites as well organ accompaniments for contemporary liturgical songs.
Theophane's compositions were performed at the First Annual Congress of Women Composers in 1981 in New York City and in 1984 at the American Composers Festival of the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra. Her achievements both in composition and church music were recognized by St. Joseph College in Resselaer, Indiana, when, in 1978, she was awarded an honorary doctor of sacred music degree. In 1983, Marquette University bestowed on her an honorary doctor of fine arts degree.
In 1990, Theophane was the first musician and woman to receive the Berakah Award from the North American Academy of Liturgy. The award proclaims:
"At the keyboard and in the choirloft, In the classroom, recital hall, and for the assembly Your teeming accoustical imagination Has sounded Kyrie and thanksgiving, Doxa and delight, pathos and power Through half a century and more. Your love insists that organ and all instruments conjoin, That the music of earth and heaven combine Whereby every living thing may praise the Lord."
To have known Sister Theophane Hytrek is to have experienced wholesome joyfulness, simplicity, gentleness, and generosity. She was humble in the truest sense, knowing her gifts so as to place them at the service of God and neighbor.
Her last recital took place at St. Joseph Convent Chapel on August 7, 1992, when she performed her organ work, "Rhapsody on TE DEUM." She died suddenly on August 13, 1992, while teaching on the faculty of the school for organists sponsored by the National Association of Pastoral Musicians held at Alverno College.
Publishers of her music are McLaughlin & Reilly, World Library Publications, Inc., G.I.A. Publications, Inc., Hope Publishing Company, ICEL, Augsburg, Associated Music Publisher, Inc., Fema Music Publications and Alliance Publications, Inc.