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Jim Stephenson


Chicago area composer James Stephenson’s works have been performed by leading American orchestras and around the world, and have been hailed by critics as having “straightforward, unabashedly beautiful sounds” and “Stephenson deserves to be heard again and again!” (Boston Herald). His music incorporates a fresh and energizing sound scape that engages the audience while maintaining integrity and worthwhile challenges for the performing musicians. This rare combination has rewarded Stephenson with a host of ongoing commissions and projects.

Recent Stephenson premieres include two new violin concertos performed by the Minnesota Orchestra (Osmo Vanska conducting, Jennifer Frautschi, violin) and the Rhode Island Philharmonic (Larry Rachleff with Alex Kerr). These works, along with his oboe concerto, were commissioned by the esteemed Minnesota Commissioning Club, and proved a wonderful boost to his early career as full-timer composer. His 2nd trumpet concerto has been performed on five continents since its premiere in Australia by Rex Richardson in 2010. His growing catalog now boasts concertos and sonatas for nearly every wind instrument, in addition to the violin and piano. Commissions for solo works have come from principal players in the the symphonies of Chicago, Boston, NY Phil, Philadelphia and Minnesota Orchestra, Washington DC (National), Oregon, Dallas, among others.

Stephenson is also active in the concert band world, with premieres occurring at major venues such as the 2010 Midwest Clinic, TMEA (Texas Music Educators) and the ABA (American Bandmasters Association) convention, the latter with the US “President’s Own” Marine Band. In the spring of 2014, his music will be premiered/performed at four consecutive CBDNA and ABA regional conferences.

His landmark educational work, Compose Yourself!, has now been performed over 250 times since its creation in 2002, and will see performances by five more orchestras this season as well. Also active as a highly sought-after arranger, Stephenson’s arrangements have been performed/recorded/broadcast by virtually every major orchestra in the country, including the Boston Pops, Cincinnati Pops, NY Pops and more. Recently having added conducting to his musical palette, Stephenson has already been engaged on several occasions with orchestras in Charleston, Modesto, Ft. Myers and Lake Forest, IL.

Before moving to Lake Forest as a full-time composer/conductor, Stephenson spent 17 seasons with the Naples (FL) Philharmonic as a trumpeter, a position he won immediately upon graduating from the New England Conservatory of Music. When not writing music, he enjoys spending time with wife, Sally, and four children, or doing almost any sporting activity!

Stephenson is currently enjoying a position of Composer-in-Residence with the Lake Forest Symphony.

Articles by Jim Stephenson:

NewMusicBox March 28 2016 | By Jim Stephenson
Composing is a Lonely Craft, but We Can’t Do It Alone

“Do you consider the audience when you are writing your music?” Several times, I’m shocked to hear the composer reply: “No.” How can this be?

NewMusicBox March 21 2016 | By Jim Stephenson
Define Inspiration

Let’s consider the case of this article. The title occurred to me in an instant, and within that instant, I knew I had enough ideas to fill an article. Up...

NewMusicBox March 14 2016 | By Jim Stephenson
The Pun is Mightier than the Portmanteau

I was told after I wrote it—by a (perhaps too) “serious” musician—that BasSOON It Will Be Christmas wouldn’t get played much. Well, it gets played at least a dozen times...

NewMusicBox March 7 2016 | By Jim Stephenson
Choosing the Three-Letter Response Over the Two-Letter One

There was a very distinct point at the beginning of my composing career when a decision changed absolutely everything for me. My future would take time to pan out, of...