Sem Dresden was born on April 20, 1881 in Amsterdam and died on July 30, 1957 in The Hague.
He studied violin and piano with Richard Hageman, violin with Dudok and Togni, harmony with Roeske, counterpoint, fugue and composition with Bernard Zweers and composition and conducting with Hans Pfitzner in Berlin.
Dresden fulfilled several functions as a pedagogue, critic, organizer and conductor and in all of these functions focusing extra on new music. He performed, among others, as a conductor of a Madrigal choir, a group of nine solo singers, as well as a Motet and Madrigal Choir in Haarlem. He was successively managing director of the Amsterdam Conservatory of Music and of the Royal Consevatory in The Hague. Additionally, Dresden gave lectures and readings, in North America (1947) on the subject of Dutch contemporary composers. He was president of the National Commission for Music Education as well as of the department music of the Arts Council; furthermore, member of the governing board of the Dutch opera, President of the Pijper Endowment and member of the Diepenbrock Endowment.