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Puts was born in St. Louis, Missouri. He studied composition and piano at the Eastman School of Music and Yale University, earning the Doctor of Musical Arts degree from Eastman. Among his teachers were Samuel Adler, Jacob Druckman, David Lang, Christopher Rouse, Joseph Schwantner, Martin Bresnick, and, in piano, Nelita True. He also studied at the Tanglewood Music Festival with William Bolcom and Bernard Rands.
He is composer-in-residence at the Fort Worth Symphony and has received a commission from the Aspen Music Festival. His Cello Concerto was premiered by Yo-Yo Ma. Puts's works have been performed by the St. Louis Symphony, the Pacific Symphony, the Utah Symphony (with Evelyn Glennie as percussion soloist), the Miró Quartet, and Concertante. He is a frequent composer in residence at the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music, which commissioned his fourth symphony and his flute concerto.
His alma mater reports,
For several years, Kevin Puts received reviews describing him as a "promising composer" and "a young composer to watch". But with a flurry of recent performances and prestigious commissions, Puts can now be described as one of America’s most important composers, period.
The opera Silent Night, with score by Puts and libretto by Mark Campbell, was published by Aperto Press in 2011 and premiered by the Minnesota Opera on November 12. Puts won the annual Pulitzer Prize for Music in 2012; the citation called the piece "a stirring opera that recounts the true story of a spontaneous ceasefire [the 1914 Christmas truce] among Scottish, French and Germans during World War I, displaying versatility of style and cutting straight to the heart."
- American Academy of Arts and Letters composition prize
- 2001 Guggenheim Fellow 
- 1996-1998 Young Concert Artists Composer-in-Residence 
- 2002 Rome Prize of the American Academy in Rome.
- 2008 Opera Fund Awards, The Minnesota Opera: Silent Night 
- 2012 Pulitzer Prize for Music for Silent Night (libretto by Mark Campbell)
- Symphony No. 1, commissioned and premiered by the California Symphony Orchestra, 1999
- Inspiring Beethoven, 2001
- Symphony No. 2, Island of Innocence, commissioned by the Barlow Foundation, premiered by the Cincinnati Symphony/Paavo Jaarvi conductor and Utah Symphony/Keith Lockhart conductor, 2002
- Symphony No. 3 (“Vespertine”), commissioned by Kathryn Gould and Meet the Composer through Magnum Opus, premiered by the Marin Symphony, Alasdair Neale, conductor, 2004
- Symphony No. 4, commissioned by the Cabrillo Festival for Contemporary Music, premiered by the Cabrillo Festival Orchestra, Marin Alsop, conductor, 2007
- ... this noble company, commissioned and premiered by the Atlanta Symphony, 2003
- Vespertine Elegy
- "The 2012 Pulitzer Prize Winners: Music". The Pulitzer Prizes. Retrieved 2013-11-20. With short biography and material on the opera including audio-video excerpt.
- "Composer Kevin Puts - Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music". Cabrillomusic.org. Retrieved 2013-11-21.
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- "Peabody Institute Faculty/Kevin Puts". Johns Hopkins University. Retrieved December 10, 2013.
- "Kevin Matthew Puts - John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation". Gf.org. Retrieved 2013-11-21.
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- "New Music News Wire". NewMusicBox. 2008-04-07. Retrieved 2013-11-21.