Composition Department

Sean Shepherd, BM, May 2002

These Particular Circumstances (2009)  [19:00]

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Large Ensemble (1-1-1-1);(1-1-1-0);(2-Hp.-Pno.);(2-1-1-1)

IU New Music Ensemble - David Dzubay
Jacobs School of Music, Indiana University


Commissioned by the New York Philharmonic New Music Ensemble Alan Gilbert, conductor.

in seven uninterrupted episodes:



Called “sharp and fierce” (Feast of Music) with “a wonderful way of making the orchestra shimmer” (Sequenza 21), Sean Shepherd’s music has gained him admiration and return engagements with major ensembles across the US and Europe.  Performances include those with the National, BBC and New World Symphonies, festivals in Aldeburgh, Santa Fe and La Jolla, the Scharoun Ensemble Berlin, and appearances with the Asko|Schönberg Ensemble in Amsterdam and on the Heidelberger Fruhling Festival in Spring 2011.  “Shepherd uses a profuse orchestral palette well,” observes The Times|UK, and the New York Times notes his “kaleidoscopic use of orchestral color.”  Conductor Oliver Knussen premiered Sean’s Wanderlust with the Cleveland Orchestra in 2009, and Alan Gilbert led the premiere of These Particular Circumstances, commissioned by the New York Philharmonic for the inaugural season of CONTACT!, the New Music Series in April 2010, to acclaim.
Next season, Sean begins as the Daniel R. Lewis Composer Fellow of the Cleveland Orchestra.  He returns to Cleveland with Wanderlust, and Franz Welser-Möst will conduct performances in 2012 in Severance Hall and during the Cleveland Orchestra Miami Residency.  Responsibilities include participation in rehearsals, masterclasses, and educational activities serving the Northeast Ohio community, and he will create a new work that will be given its world premiere by the Orchestra during the 2012-13 season.  Sean also continues as the first-ever Composer in Residence of his hometown orchestra, the Reno Philharmonic, with a second piece premiering in October, conducted by music director Laura Jackson.

January 2012 will see the premieres of commissioned works for the Ensemble Intercontemporain, with Susanna Mälkki conducting performances in Paris and Cologne; and for the Claremont Trio, to commemorate the opening of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum’s new concert hall in Boston.  Sean also returns, with Oliver Knussen, to the National Symphony Orchestra in subscription-week performances of Wanderlust in November.

Winner of the 2009 triennial Benjamin H. Danks Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, Sean was the 2008 Deutsche Bank Fellow at the American Academy in Berlin, and a first-prize winner in the 2005 international Lutosławski Award.  He attended masterclasses at Tanglewood (2005) and Aspen (2006), the Britten-Pears Young Artist Programme (2007), and a Fall 2007 composer residency at the Camargo Foundation in Cassis, France.   He was a top prizewinner in student competitions including the Robbins Family Prize at Cornell, the Palmer Dixon Prize at Juilliard and the Indiana University Dean's Award, and earned awards and commissions from organizations such as the Sue Knussen Composers Fund, ASCAP, the National Society of Arts and Letters, Ensemble X, and the New York Youth Symphony.  Other recent performances include those with Trio Volans, pianists Aaron Wunsch and Jihye Chang, new music ensembles at the University of Texas and the University of Southern California, the Syracuse Society for New Music, and the Minnesota Orchestra.

Originally from Reno, Nevada, Sean (b.1979) holds degrees in composition and bassoon performance from Indiana University, where his teachers included Claude Baker and David Dzubay, composition, and Kim Walker, bassoon.  Graduate studies include a Master’s degree from The Juillard School with composer Robert Beaser, and doctoral work at Cornell University with Roberto Sierra and Steven Stucky.  Also active as a writer on music, his commentary has appeared in Playbill, WQXR’s Q2 online blog, and on the American Music Center’s  He lives in New York City.  His music is published by Boosey and Hawkes.  (updated 4.11)