"An exciting composer of the new American generation" (New York Times), Sean Shepherd has quickly gained admiration and return engagements with major ensembles and performers across the US and Europe. He recently completed his tenure as the Daniel R. Lewis Composer Fellow of the Cleveland Orchestra, culminating with the premiere of Tuolumne in April 2013, written for Franz Welser-Möst and the orchestra. Other recent performances include those with the New York Philharmonc, the National, BBC and New World symphony orchestras, at festivals in Aldeburgh, Heidelberg, La Jolla, Lucerne, Santa Fe, and Tanglewood, and with leading European ensembles including Ensemble Intercontemporain, the Scharoun Ensemble Berlin, the Asko|Schönberg Ensemble and the Birmingham Contemporary Music Group. Conductor-champions include Christoph Eschenbach, Valery Gergiev, Alan Gilbert and Welser-Möst; distinguished composer-conductors Oliver Knussen and George Benjamin; and young stars Pablo Heras-Casado, Susanna Mälkki and Matthias Pintscher.
Shepherd’s most recent orchestral work, Magiya, written for Carnegie Hall’s newly established National Youth Orchestra of the United States of America, toured the US and Europe in summer 2013 in the orchestra’s first performances, with Valery Gergiev. In March 2013, the St. Luke’s Chamber Ensemble debuted his Quintet at various New York venues. He will compose another work (following the premiere of These Particular Circumstances, commissioned for the inaugural season of their new music series, CONTACT!, in 2010) for the New York Philharmonic and Alan Gilbert, to be performed in June 2014 in recognition as the orchestra’s first Kravis Emerging Composer.
Other recent premieres include Blue Blazes, a Hechinger Commission from Christoph Eschenbach and the National Symphony Orchestra, performed in Washington, DC and on a South American tour; Blur for Ensemble Intercontemporain and Susanna Mälkki, in Paris and Cologne in 2012; 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. Shepherd served from 2010 to 2012 as the first-ever Composer-in-Residence of his hometown orchestra, the Reno Philharmonic, where he composed two new works: Silvery Rills and Desert Garden. Appointed by music director Laura Jackson, he engaged 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, Shepherd was named as the USA Van Dusen Fellow by the 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, he was the 2008 Deutsche Bank Fellow at the American Academy in Berlin, and a first-prize winner in the 2005 international Lutoslawski 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, Shepherd (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 NewMusicBox.com. His music is published by Boosey and Hawkes. He lives in New York City.
Sean Shepherd last appeared with La Jolla Music Society at SummerFest 2011