Mykola Dmytrovich Leontovych was born in Selevynzi (now Monastïryok), Ukraine, on December 13, 1877. He entered the Russian Orthodox seminary in Kamianets-Podilskyi, from which he graduated in 1899. He was slow in developing as a composer in the years following, as he taught in schools in Kiev and Podillia and organized performances among amateur musicians.
Leontovych eventually had private studies in St. Petersburg and in Kiev, where Boleslav Yavorsky taught him periodically from 1909-1914. In 1916 Leontovych wrote his famous Shchedryk, and was soon the most popular composer in Ukraine. Leontovych accepted the appointment of music professor at Kiev University in 1918 and also began teaching at the Mykola Lysenko Institute (Kiev).
With his career going well, Leontovych started his most ambitious work, the opera On the Water Nymph's Easter. He would never finish it: Leontovych was shot dead in his parents' home in Markovka on January 25, 1921. The perpetrator was, depending on the version you believe, either a common burglar or an agent of the Cheka (Soviet Secret Police).