1954 Born on 18 July in Manhattan.
1962 Begins studying the piano, improvising and writing first compositions for the piano. Corresponds with Gian Carlo Menotti who encourages him to write operas.
1963 Attends Leonard Bernstein's Young People's Concert, hearing Andre Watts' debut.
1965 Accepted at the Juilliard Preparatory Division for studies in piano and theory.
1972 Enters the Manhattan School of Music for composition studies with Charles Wuorinen, orchestration with John Corigliano. Also studies violin, cello and voice.
1976 Receives first commission by Speculum Musicae forSextet No. 3. Bachelor of Music from the Manhattan School of Music. Accepted at the Juilliard School for graduate studies in composition with Elliott Carter.
1977 Sextet No. 3 premiered by Speculum Musicae in Alice Tully Hall. Receives BMI Student Composers Award.
1978 First national critical acclaim for premiere ofRhapsody for Violin and Piano in New York City. Hailed by The New Yorker music critic Andrew Porter as "a genuine creator with a fertile, unforced vein of invention." Receives Masters Degree of Music from the Juilliard School. Awarded the Bearns Prize (Columbia University) and invited to attend Princeton University for further graduate studies in composition with Milton Babbitt.
1979 Nova, a companion piece to the Trout Quintetpremiered. Later performed with Tobias Picker as pianist on the San Francisco Symphony's "New and Unusual Music Series," directed by John Adams, with musicians from the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra and on tour in Hawaii with Speculum Musicae.
1980 Awarded first of two fellowhsips from The National Endowment for the Arts.
1981 Awarded Guggenheim Fellowship. Violin Concerto,first major commission, premiered and recorded by the American Composers Orchestra.
1982 Second National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship awarded.
1983 Three major works premiered:
April, Symphony No. 1 commissioned and premiered by the San Francisco Symphony, Edo de Waart, conductor, and performed on tour in Carnegie Hall and the Kennedy Center.
May, Piano Concerto No. 2: Keys to the City commissioned by the City of New York for the Brooklyn Bridge centennial celebration and premiered by the Brooklyn Philharmonic, Lukas Foss, conductor and Tobias Picker, soloist.
August, The Encantadas, concerto for actor and orchestra commissioned by the Northeast Orchestral Consortium and premiered by the Albany Symphony — later recorded by Sir John Gielgud, with Christoph Eschenbach conducting the Houston Symphony for Virgin Records.
Nonesuch Records commissions Serenade for Piano and Winds.
1984 Charles Ives Scholarship of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Composes first song, Aussöhnung on text of Goethe for soprano Judith Bettina.
1985 Appointed as the first Composer-in-Residence to the Houston Symphony, serves through 1990.
1986 Symphony No. 2: Aussöhnung for soprano and orchestra, based on the song, premiered by the Houston Symphony, Sergiu Comissiona conducting.
Composes his tone poem, Old and Lost Rivers. It is performed by virtually every major American orchestra including the Cleveland Orchestra, Chicago Symphony, Philadelphia Orchestra and the Zurich Tonhalle and Jerusalem Symphony. Recorded three times for Virgin Records, Sony Classical and Angel Records.
1987 Composer-in-Residence, Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival. Premiere of String Quartet No. 1: New Memoriescommissioned by the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Georgia O'Keefe.
1988 Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center commissions String Quartet with Bass. Premiered with composer conducting.
Symphony No. 3, Houston Symphony commission, is premiered with David Zinman conducting.
Carnegie Hall premiere of The Encantadas with the American Composers Orchestra.
Peter Serkin premieres his commission Three Pieces for Piano at the 92nd Street Y and at the Theatre Champs Elysees in Paris.
1989 Composes Romance and Interludes at Christoph Eschenbach's suggestion, for the Houston Symphony and their principal oboist, Robert Atherholt; based on Robert Schumann's Three Romances, Opus 94.
1990 Two Fantasies for orchestra premiered by Christoph Eschenbach and the Houston Symphony Orchestra, and performed on tour.
1992 Wins the Academy of Arts and Letters Award in Music. Bang! for piano and orchestra commissioned by the New York Philharmonic for their 150th anniversary year. Premiere conducted by Kurt Masur.
1993 The Rain in the Trees for soprano, flute and orchestra, based on poems of W.S. Merwin, is premiered by Lorin Maazel conducting the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. Also performed by the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. Commissioned by the Santa Fe Opera.
1994 And Suddenly It's Evening premiered, inspired by a poem of Salvatore Quasimodo. Commissioned by a consortium of six youth orchestras. Directs "Week of American Music" in Bucharest, Romania. Begins his first opera, Emmeline.
1995 Composer-in-Residence at the Pacific Music Festival, founded by Leonard Bernstein, in Sapporo, Japan.
The Encantadas performed in Tokyo with Christoph Eschenbach and the Houston Symphony.
His 1981 work, The Blue Hula, given Japanese premiere by the Philharmonic Musicians from Vienna, principal musicians of the Vienna Philharmonic.
Joins faculty of Bennington College.
1996 Emmeline, an opera in two acts with libretto by J.D. McClatchy, receives its world premiere at the Santa Fe Opera.
1997 Fantastic Mr. Fox, based on the children's tale by Roald Dahl with libretto by Donald Sturrock, is commissioned by the Roald Dahl Foundation, U.K.
Four Etudes for Ursula commissioned by Northwestern University is premiered by Ursula Oppens, Carnegie Hall and Tanglewood Festival.
National television premiere of Emmeline on PBS' Great Performances.
Commissioned by the BBC to compose a cello concerto.
1998 Commissioned by the Dallas Opera. Chose for his subject matter Emile Zola's novel, Therese Raquin. Libretto by Gene Scheer.
New York City Opera premiere of Emmeline garners international critical acclaim. World premiere CD of Emmeline released.
Fantastic Mr. Fox, his second opera, premiered by the Los Angeles Music Center Opera.
1999 Commissioned by The Metropolitan Opera. Picker decides to base his fourth opera on Theodore Dreiser's An American Tragedy.
Ursula Oppens gives the European premiere of Four Etudes for Ursula in Berlin.
Premiere of Suite for Cello and Piano by Lynn Harrell, commissioned by a consortium including the Ravinia Festival; the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, the Wolf Trap Foundation, and the Boston Symphony Orchestra.
2000 European premiere of Symphony No. 2: Aussöhnung, Munich Philharmonic, James Levine conducting.
World Premiere of Tres sonetos de amor for soprano and piano, with Judith Bettina and James Goldsworthy.
2001 World premiere of Thérèse Raquin,The Dallas Opera, and the Concerto for Cello and Orchestra at the BBC Proms.
2002 Canadian Premiere of Thérèse Raquin (in French translation) at L'Opera de Montreal.
World Premiere of Tres sonetos de amor, Pacific Symphony Orchestra. Carl St. Clare, conducting, Nathan Gunn, baritone.
2003 West Coast Premiere of Thérèse Raquin at San Diego Opera.
European Premiere of Tres sonetos de amor, Strasbourg Philharmonique.
The Encantadas widely performed throughout the US (twentieth anniversary of the work).
2004 The Blue Hula European Premiere, Christoph Eschenbach, L'Orchestre de Paris.
2005 Premiere of An American Tragedy at the Metropolitan Opera.
2006 Premiere of the chamber version ofThérèse Raquin at the Linbury Studio of the Royal Opera House at Covent Garden.
2007 American premiere of the chamber version of Thérèse Raquin at the Dicapo Opera Theatre of New York.
2009 Word premiere of String Quartet No. 2 by the American String Quartet at Merkin Concert Hall in New York City.
2009 World premiere of Emmeline in new chamber orchestration, led by Sam Bill at Dicapo Opera theatre.
2009 Ursula Oppens premieres Four Etudes for Ursula and Three Nocturnes for Ursula at Baisly Powell Elebash Recital Hall in New York City.
2010 Rambert Dance Company tours Tobias Picker’s new ballet Awakenings
2011 World Premiere of Piano Quintet: Live Oaks by Sarah Rothenberg and the Brentano String Quartet
2012 Elected into the American Academy of Arts and Letters
2013 World Premiere of Dolores Claiborne at San Francisco Opera