José Retra studied piano with Arthur Hartong at the Conservatory of Arnhem and took composition lessons with Andries van Rossem. In 1999 she obtained the M.A. Psychology for Musicians at the University of Sheffield (UK) and a PhD in Early Childhood Music Education at the University of Exeter (UK) in 2011. During her work as a researcher and teacher she composed and arranged music for film & tv and different ensembles.
Retra is a music teacher at Kunstencentrum Het Klooster in Woerden (NL) and is a reviewer for the biennial MERYC conference on research into music and young children.
In recent years, the urge arose to focus more on composing. She is currently studying composition at LUCA School Of Arts - Campus Lemmens (Leuven) with Maarten Van Ingelgem.
Her compositional oeuvre includes works for solo piano, voice with piano accompaniment, chamber music and orchestra. In 2022, Orkest van Het Groene Hart (Utrecht) performed the commissioned work 1672. Catalan pianist Carol Ruiz played her piano work Perpétuel during a recital in January 2023. In 1996, her chamber opera The Bridge, reached the final of the Stephen Oliver Prize.
Also in 1996 during the women's choir festival Vrouwenstemmen in Etten (NL) her work Juliet for women's choir and piano was performed. She considers it to be an important task to write good music for young children.
Conducting, Jim Roodnat
Compositie, Lemmensinstituut Leuven (België), Andries van Rossem
Artistic Research, course KU Leuven/Orpheus instituut (België)
PhD Music Education, University of Exeter (UK)
MA Psychology for Musicians, University of Sheffield (UK)
Bachelor Pedagogiek, Hogeschool Nijmegen
B.Mus. Piano, Conservatorium Arnhem