Shawn E. Okpebholo (b. 1981) is a widely sought-after and award-winning composer, whose music can be characterized as diverse, dynamic, and genuine—comfortably composing in various styles and genres. His artistry has been celebrated as a laureate of various awards, including: Second Place Winner in The American Prize in Composition (orchestral division); First Prize in the Flute New Music Consortium Composition Competition; First Prize in the Accent06 International Composition Competition; a regular recipient of the ASCAPlus awards since 2004; among others. His music has been performed all over the world, in five continents (Africa, Asia, Europe, North and South Americas), in over thirty states, and in nearly every major U.S. city. Some distinguished venues, festivals include, and radio broadcasts include: The Kennedy Center and the National Cathedral (Washington, D.C.); EarTaxi Festival and Orchestra Hall (Chicago); Monte Music Festival (Goa, India); The Uncommon Music Festival (Sitka, AK), CBDNA National Conference (Seattle, WA); MusicX Contemporary Music Festival (Cincinnati); PRIZM Concert Series (Memphis); Front Wave New Music Festival (West Palm Beach, FL); the state music festivals of Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio and Texas; Chicago's WFMT 98.7; and Cincinnati’s WGUC 90.9.
Okpebholo has received numerous commissions from noted soloists, universities and organizations, including the International Tuba and Euphonium Association, the United States Air Force, the Ohio Music Education Association. Some noted performing artists and ensembles include The Cadillac Moon Ensemble, Picosa Ensemble, United States Army Field Band, euphonium virtuoso Steven Mead, cellist Leonardo Altino, baritone Will Liverman, pianist Paul Tuntland Sánchez, mezzo-soprano J’nai Bridges, flutist Caen Thomason-Redus and violists Dorthy White Okpebholo. His compositions can be heard on a variety of commercially released CDs. His first album solely devoted to his music, Steal Away, is a collection of Negro spirituals that he re-imagined.
As an academic, Okpebholo has guest lectured and given master classes at many colleges and universities across the country, as well as two universities in Nigeria. His work has been supported by many grants, including a grant from the Illinois Arts Council, Aldeen Research Grant (Wheaton College), John Stott Faculty Grant in Human Needs and Global Resources (Wheaton College), Faculty Global Research Grant (Wheaton College), and Union University Pew Research Grant. He was also one of eighteen featured composers in Volume IV of the book series, “Composers on Composing for Band,” edited by Mark Camphouse.
He earned his masters and doctoral degrees in composition from the College-Conservatory of Music (CCM) at the University of Cincinnati, where he also studied music theory. He completed a bachelor’s degree in composition and music history from Asbury College and had additional studies in film scoring from New York University. His primary teachers were James Curnow, Joel Hoffman, Ronald Holz, and Michael Fiday. Currently, he is Associate Professor of Music Composition and Theory at Wheaton College Conservatory of Music (IL), having previously taught at Union University (TN), Northern Kentucky University, and CCM. Most of his music education growing up was through The Salvation Army church, where he regularly received free music lessons. That act of charity shaped his passion for giving back in various ways (including musically) to underserved communities. Currently, he is Associate Professor of Music Composition and Theory at Wheaton College Conservatory of Music (IL), having previously taught at Union University (TN), Northern Kentucky University, and CCM.
He lives in Wheaton, IL with his wife, violist Dorthy, and his daughters, Eva and Corinne.