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 symphonies of Chicago, Boston, New York (Philharmonic), Philadelphia, Minnesota, Washington DC (National), Oregon, and Dallas, among others.
Stephenson is also active in the concert band world, with premieres occurring at major venues such as the 2010 Midwest Clinic, Texas Music Educators and the American Bandmasters Association convention, the latter with the U.S. “President’s Own” Marine Band. In the spring of 2014, his music will be premiered/performed at four consecutive College Band Directors National Association and American Bandmasters Association 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, New York Pops and more. Recently having added conducting to his musical palette, Stephenson has already been engaged on several occasions with orchestras in Charleston, Modesto, Fort Myers and Lake Forest, Illinois.
Before moving to Lake Forest as a full-time composer/conductor, Stephenson spent 17 seasons with the Naples (Florida) 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.