Chicago area composer James Stephenson’s works have been performed by leading American orchestras and 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 delights 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 collaborations include a concerto for Branford Marsalis with Rodney Mack; an exuberant fanfare for the Houston Symphony; and a concerto for the Philadelphia Orchestra’s principal trombonist, Nitzan Haroz. In 2010 and 2011, Stephenson premieres include a trumpet concerto in Sydney, Australia, (with repeats in Brazil, Sweden and the UK), as well as concertos for flute and clarinet in Florida and Ohio (Cleveland), respectively.
The 2011-2012 season will see the premiere of two new violin concertos, to be performed by the Minnesota Orchestra (Osmo Vanska conducting, Jennifer Frautschi, violin) and the Rhode Island Philharmonic (Larry Rachleff with Alex Kerr). Stephenson is also active in the concert band world, with premieres occurring at major venues such as the 2010 Midwest Clinic, and the 2011 ABA (American Bandmasters Association) convention with the US “President’s Own” Marine Band.
His landmark educational work, Compose Yourself!, has now been performed over 200 times since its creation in 2002, and will see performances by four Chicago-land 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.
Before moving to Lake Forest as a full-time composer, 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. Alan Heatherington is Music Director.