James Stephenson


Jim Stephenson  COMPOSER or CONDUCTOR - in suit on scores web use.jpg

Leading American orchestras, instrumentalists and wind ensembles around the world have performed the music of Chicago-based composer James M. Stephenson, both to critical acclaim and the delight of audiences.. Stephenson came late to his full-time composing career, having performed 17 seasons as a trumpeter in the Naples Philharmonic in Florida. As such, the composer is largely self-taught, making his voice truly individual and his life’s work all the more remarkable. Recent and upcoming premieres include the St. Louis and Chicago Symphony, Minnesota Orchestra, and Cabrillo Festival, as well as the US “President’s Own” Marine Band. Over 150 orchestras and bands play his music annually.

Jim will be a mini Artist in Residence July 23-27, 2018 in partnership with Ben Helpren of NCEAS, The Music Academy of the West (MAW) and the Lobero Theater.

During Jim's visit this summer he will conduct a piece he wrote for MAW, and NCEAS+MAW will commission a new chamber piece based on Jim's experience in residence at NCEAS.  Jim will return in the summer of 2019 to premiere the completed commision piece at the Lobero theater and host a panel Q&A with Jim, an NCEAS scientist, and others. There will also be a number of more informal modes of interactions between MAW musicians and NCEAS scientists.

The vision of the residency in Ben Helpren's words:  "I'm particularly excited about bringing music (and composition) into NCEAS's Artist in Residence program because of the strong parallels in how we do science at the Center and how music (in particular chamber music) is composed, rehearsed and performed. NCEAS uses a 'working group' model of synthesis science where small groups of scientific experts (usually 12-18) come together for a week a time, several times over 2 years, to brainstorm, refine, test, implement and ultimately publish their work.  The creative process starts with a core idea (question) but then modulates as new insights and new ideas get infused into the process of discovery. Exploring the parallels between these two modes of creativity, and hopefully seeding cross-learning from folks who rarely work together, seems really exciting to me."

Since becoming a full-time composer in 2007, I have been fortunate to have had a steady stream of commissions and projects, keeping me always on task and, luckily, in demand. Stemming from my days as a professional trumpeter in the Naples (FL) Philharmonic, I have endeavored to be a “performer’s composer” – always remaining sensitive to the needs of those who are on stage making the music happen. Chicago Symphony clarinetist John Yeh has playfully called me “The Concerto King”, and I am happy to admit that my catalog does include a concerto, and sonata, for nearly every symphonic instrument, with more being added every year.

A notable characteristic I try to infuse in my music is rhythmic momentum, as well as colorful scoring and orchestration, whether for instruments of the same timbre, or in mixed chamber settings. For me, this is the playground, and I absolutely love this part of the process.

I will always cherish and hold in high esteem the musical giants of the past, in addition to adding my own modern sensitivities, so as to try to give my music a blend of familiarity and new discovery all at once. With this, I hope to lead audiences and performers on a journey of both anticipation and reward
— Jim Stephenson