Sean Shepherd

Sean Shepherd

Called “a composer worth keeping an ear on” (Chicago Tribune), Sean Shepherd has quickly gained admiration and return engagements with major ensembles and performers across the US and Europe. Recent performances include those with the National, BBC and New World Symphonies, at festivals in Aldeburgh, Heidelberg, Santa Fe and La Jolla, and with premiere European ensembles including the Scharoun Ensemble Berlin, the Asko|Schönberg Ensemble and the Birmingham Contemporary Music Group. “Shepherd uses a profuse orchestral palette well,” observes The Times | UK, and the New York Times notes his “kaleidoscopic use of orchestral color.” A growing list of conductor-champions includes Oliver Knussen, who premiered Sean’s Wanderlust with the Cleveland Orchestra in 2009; Alan Gilbert; who led the premiere of These Particular Circumstances, commissioned by the New York Philharmonic for the inaugural season of CONTACT!, the New Music Series in 2010; and Susanna Mälkki, who premiered the Ensemble Intercontemporain-commissioned Blur in Paris and Cologne in 2012.

 In June 2012, Christoph Eschenbach and the National Symphony Orchestra premiere Blue Blazes, a Hechinger Commission, with subscription-week performances in Washington and on their South America tour, marking Sean’s third appearance with the orchestra since 2009. Other summer performances include those at the Tanglewood Festival of Contemporary Music and the Lucerne Festival in August. A new commission for the St. Luke’s Chamber Ensemble appears in performances at the Morgan Library and Brooklyn Museum in New York in March 2013. And he continues as the Daniel R. Lewis Composer Fellow of the Cleveland Orchestra, with a major new work for Franz Welser-Möst and the ensemble to premiere in January 2013.

Recent premieres include Quartet for Oboe and Strings, for New York Philharmonic oboist Liang Wang, at the Santa Fe and La Jolla summer festivals in 2011; and Trio for the Claremont Trio, in celebration of the opening of Calderwood Hall, the Renzo Piano-designed addition to the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, in January 2012. Sean served from 2010 to 2012 as the first-ever Composer-in-Residence of his hometown orchestra, the Reno Philharmonic. Appointed by music director Laura Jackson, he composed two new works – Silvery Rills and Desert Garden – for the orchestra, and participated in a variety of community outreach and educational initiatives, including the orchestra’s Celebrate Strings after-school program at Title I At Risk elementary schools.

In 2011, Sean was named as the USA Van Dusen Fellow, an honor which accompanies an unrestricted grant of $50,000 from United States Artists, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to investing in America's finest artists and to illuminating the value of artists to society. Winner of the 2009 triennial Benjamin H. Danks Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, Sean was the 2008 Deutsche Bank Fellow at the American Academy in Berlin, and a first-prize winner in the 2005 international Lutosławski Award. He attended masterclasses at Tanglewood (2005) and Aspen (2006), the Britten-Pears Young Artist Programme (2007), and a Fall 2007 composer residency at the Camargo Foundation in Cassis, France. He was a top prizewinner in student competitions including the Robbins Family Prize at Cornell, the Palmer Dixon Prize at Juilliard and the Indiana University Dean's Award, and earned awards and commissions from organizations such as the Sue Knussen Composers Fund, ASCAP, the National Society of Arts and Letters, Ensemble X, and the New York Youth Symphony.

Originally from Reno, Nevada, Sean (b.1979) holds degrees in composition and bassoon performance from Indiana University, where his teachers included Claude Baker and David Dzubay, composition, and Kim Walker, bassoon. Graduate studies include a Master’s degree from The Juilliard School with composer Robert Beaser, and doctoral work at Cornell University with Roberto Sierra and Steven Stucky. Also active as a writer on music, his commentary has appeared in Playbill, WQXR’s Q2 online blog, and on the American Music Center’s He lives in New York City. His music is published by Boosey and Hawkes.

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