Shawn E. Okpebholo

“It's about culture, diversity, creativity, and imagination and a global city committed to serious art. Chicago—through the incredible and innovative work of Ear Taxi Festival—can continue to be a place where both world-class composers and performers can come together in extraordinary music-making: dynamic, forward, and inspired.”

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 music has been performed all over the world, on five continents (Africa, Asia, Europe, North and South Americas), in over thirty states, and in almost every major U.S. city. Dr. Okpebholo regularly receives commissions from noted soloists, chamber groups, and large ensembles—artists who have performed his music at some of the nation’s greatest venues including the Kennedy Center and the National Cathedral. 

Dr. Okpebholo's music has been featured on many festivals, including: Monte Music Festival (Goa, India); SCI National Conference; CBDNA National Conference (Seattle, WA), MusicX Contemporary Music Festival (Cincinnati, OH); New Music Greensboro; Front Wave New Music Festival (Palm Beach, FL); PRIZM Ensemble Concert Series (Memphis, TN); International Tuba and Euphonium Conference; and the state music festivals of Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio and Texas. Some noted soloists and ensembles include: soundSCAPE, Cadillac Moon Ensemble, Picosa Ensemble, Access Contemporary  Music, Will Liverman, Paul Tuntland Sánchez, J’nai Bridges, and Steven Mead.

Steal Away, a collection of Negro spirituals that he re-imagined, is the title of the first album solely devoted to his music. Other compositions are featured on various commercially released CDs. He earned his masters and doctoral degrees in composition from the University of Cincinnati, College-Conservatory of Music (CCM) 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 at New York University. As an academic, he has guest lectured and given master classes at numerous 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, Wheaton College Aldeen Research Grant, and Union University Pew Research Grant. His artistry has been recognized by various awards and honors including first prize in the Accent06 International Composition Competition.

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 with his wife, violist Dorthy, and his daughters, Eva and Corinne.