Leading American orchestras, instrumentalists, and wind ensembles around the world have performed the “straightforward, unabashedly beautiful sounds,” (Boston Herald) of Chicago based composer James M. Stephenson, both to critical acclaim and to the delight of audiences.
Most recently, Charles Vernon, Chicago Symphony bass trombonist, asked Stephenson to write a new concerto for their 2018-19 season under Riccardo Muti. A second bass trombone concerto will receive its orchestral premiere with the St. Louis Symphony (Robertson) in 2017. Other upcoming premieres include the Minnesota Orchestra (Vänskä), the Montreal Symphony (Azoulay), and the U.S. “President’s Own” Marine Band (Lt. Col. Fettig). Stephenson’s Violin Concerto #1 will receive its Chattanooga Symphony and Cabrillo Festival debuts during the 2016-17 season.
Since its creation in 2002, Compose Yourself!, Stephenson’s landmark young-audience work, has been performed more than 300 times, engaging children in New Zealand, Canada and across the U.S. His “highly imaginative” sequel to Stravinsky’s Soldier’s Tale (entitled The Devil’s Tale) has received critical praise and dozens of performances and international premieres. His work “there are no words“–a remembrance of the tragic 2015 Charleston mass shooting–is to be performed at Lincoln Center, with additional performances scheduled worldwide.
Stephenson’s catalog boasts concertos and sonatas for nearly every instrument, earning him the moniker “The Concerto King” from Chicago Symphony clarinetist John Yeh. With such prolific output, Stephenson’s music is well represented on more than thirty CD recordings. Stephenson is also a highly sought-after conductor, arranger, and educator. As a conductor, he has led the orchestras in Bozeman, Charleston, Chattanooga, Modesto, Naples, Southwest Florida, Wyoming, in addition to a recent appearance in Spain. His arrangements have been performed/recorded/broadcast by virtually every major orchestra in the country, including the Boston Pops, Cincinnati Pops, New York Pops and more. With the Lake Forest Symphony, he has served for six years as Composer-in-Residence. He originally hails from the Chicago area. In 2007, after a 17-year performance career with the Naples Philharmonic, Stephenson and his family returned to the Chicago region to pursue the life they now share.
Stephenson makes his Festival debut with the West Coast premiere of his Violin Concerto, Tributes, featuring Jennifer Frautschi, Saturday, August 5, 2017.
Photo: Kate Stephenson