Joseph Rivers is a composer and music scholar and is Professor Emeritus of Music and Film of the University of Tulsa. His compositional projects display his interest in storytelling through music and encompass music for concert performance, stage, and film. He scored original dramatic music for the Emmy-nominated documentary film, High Stakes: The Life and Times of E.W. Marland and composed music for the ballet, Wahzhazhe: An Osage Ballet, portraying the story of the Osage people. Wahzhazhe has been widely performed by the Osage Ballet, who also performed it at the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, DC.

In addition to Wahzhazhe: Osage Ballet, Rivers has composed a number of Oklahoma-themed works: Symphony No. 2, “Three Oklahoma Peoples,” recounts the Cherokee Trail of Tears, the Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921, and the discovery of oil by the Oklahoma oil men in the early 20th century. It was premiered by the Signature Symphony and Chorale and the Cherokee National Youth Choir in 2011. Lonely People of the Osage, a choral setting of words by Oklahoma poet and Pawhuska native Winston Weathers, received its New York premiere by the Gregg Smith Singers and has been widely performed. Will Rogers Self-Portrait, for chorus and orchestra, was commissioned by the Will Rogers Heritage, Inc. and the Claremore Community Chorus. Prairie Dream is a one-act opera about pioneer Oklahoma. Trio for Violin, Violoncello, and Piano, depicts the Oklahoma landscape through the eyes of a native warrior, commissioned by the Oklahoma Music Teachers Association during the Oklahoma state centennial in 2007. The third movement, “Forest Journey,” was featured on NPR’s "Performance Today." 

Among Rivers’ internationally themed projects are the choral work, Every Man’s Land, commissioned by Dr. Kathryn LaFortune for the Tulsa Oratorio Chorus (now the Tulsa Chorale), commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Armistice ending World War I; Elegy for Babi Yar, for violin, viola, violoncello and piano, commissioned by the Jewish Federation of Tulsa; and Symphony No. 1,  “Echoes of War—Visions of Peace,” which was commissioned and premiered by the Signature Symphony at TCC and recorded by the Kyiv Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Robert Winstin for Vol. 15 of ERMMedia’s “Masterworks of the New Era” series. His Concerto for Oboe, English Horn and String Orchestra is perhaps the first concerto for these two solo instruments with string orchestra.

Other works include Portrait of a Cat, for woodwind trio and dancer with narration, commissioned by the Harwelden Institute for the Arts and premiered by the Council Oak trio, who toured it widely in Oklahoma schools, and The Exile's Return, an orchestral ballet also performed as a concert suite. He also composed the original score for Bo Bergstrom’s Shakespearean film, Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Rivers’ research interests involve film music and Italian cinema. He is presently residing in Italy, where he is continuing his compositional and research activities. He is presently working on an opera.