Born in 1952 in Charlotte, NC, Claire Ritter was raised in rural Weddington on a horse farm. She was naturally inclined to athleticism and equestrian pursuits, but the piano was an equal allure that would soon take over. Ritter studied with Marlene Broome in public school; she also took lessons as a teenager with Charlotte-based jazz pianist and arranger Ziggy Hurwitz. Attending Sun Valley High School outside of Monroe, she won awards as a musician and as a track and field star. She continued this dual path at Arizona State University with a B.S. in 1974, also playing collegiate tennis, softball, soccer, field hockey, and basketball. Ritter earned a B.A. in music from Queens University back in Charlotte in 1978, tutored by Anita B. Tritt, and was a private graduate student of the legendary Mary Lou Williams at Duke University from 1978-1980. The duality continued with Ritter serving as both sports coach and music instructor at the private Charlotte County Day School for four years.
Ritter then moved to Boston, where she worked with Ran Blake at the New England Conservatory. Ritter remained a contemporary of Blake until 1997, when she again moved back to Charlotte. While in Boston for that decade and a half, she became a mainstay on the scene. She established contemporary songwriting classes at both the New England Conservatory and Queens University, and worked with artists such as Dave Holland, Houston Person, Ricky Ford, Dominique Eade, Steve Swallow, and Stan Strickland. Ritter also established her own label, Zoning Records, through which she has released several titles. She has performed all over the U.S. and Canada, and has received grants and commissions in Massachusetts, North Carolina, and Georgia. Claire Ritter's jazz style is a modern sound, rooted in classical music and steeped in cool and light swing, but she is able to play considerable bop-inflected material, and is a composer of original music that crosses paths with the aforementioned disciplines. ~ Michael G. Nastos