Composer from Shelby takes 1st in national competition
WEST SHELBY – With a father who directed the Roberts Wesleyan Chorale for more than 30 years and his mother who conducted children’s choirs, Stephen Shewan comes by his musical talent naturally.
His father Robert once conducted the Orleans All-County Choir in Lyndonville, Shewan said.
His brother Paul is currently conductor of the Roberts Wesleyan Band and Choir and plays trumpet in the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra.
“Music is a family trade,” Shewan said. “My whole life I knew I was going to do something with music.”
Shewan, who grew up in the Rochester area and now lives in West Shelby, got his bachelor of science in music education at Roberts Wesleyan, his master’s at Ithaca College with an emphasis in French horn and piano and a doctorate in composition at the Eastman School of Music. He is honored to recently win several prestigious awards for his chorale compositions.
One award was the 2018 first-place winner of the Edwin Fissinger Choral Composition at North Dakota State University’s Challey School of Music. The competition honors the legacy and traditions of noted choral composer and longtime NDSU choral conductor Edwin Fissinger.
Shewan won the award for his composition of “Mother Goose Gems” set to music.
He was inspired for the piece from a book of nursery rhymes he picked up at the Lee-Whedon Memorial Library in Medina.
“I wrote the six short movements for my mom, who was an elementary choral director,” Shewan said about his mother, who passed away in 2007.
On Dec. 1, Shewan flew to Minneapolis for the “Vocal Essence” premiere of The Little Cradle Rocks Tonight. In March he will travel to North Dakota to hear the North Dakota State University perform Mother Goose Gems, which will be published by Pavane Music Company as part of the Jo Ann Miller Choral Series.
Another of Shewan’s choral pieces, Silent Night, won the Master Chorale of Tampa Bay’s 2016 Christmas Carol Contest.
“I write a lot of Christmas music,” Shewan said.
The Genesee Chorale, under the direction of Ric Jones of Medina, has performed one of his pieces. Shewan just finished a piece for wind ensemble which premiered a week ago by the Williamsville East Wind Ensemble.
Shewan has also composed music for orchestra, string quartet, chamber ensembles, symphonic band, solo voice, choir and piano. His music has been performed by the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra, Eastman Wind Ensemble, U.S. Army Strings, Master Chorale of Tampa Bay, Vrije Univeriteit Amsterdam Choir and numerous other musical groups across the United States, Europe and Australia.
His music has been broadcast on more than 200 radio stations in America.
Shewan continues to teach in Williamsville and said today’s kids are as nice as any.
“How fortunate I am to get paid to teach these kids a subject I love,” Shewan said.
He added he loves living in the country, having moved with his wife Ruth to the former Jay Brackett home when he got the job at Williamsville.