Photo by Lauren Osborne

Photo by Lauren Osborne

Shawn Brogan Allison’s music has been described as  “playful and inventive” (Chicago Sun-Times), “vividly imagistic” (Lucid Culture), “smartly crafted,” “lyrical, otherworldly,” and “intriguing” (Chicago Classical Review). The Chicago-based composer and saxophonist has worked with ensembles and organizations such as eighth blackbird, The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, Contempo, ICE (International Contemporary Ensemble), The New Fromm Players, The Cadillac Moon Ensemble, The Esoterics, and Cantus. His awards include a Charles Ives Scholarship from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, a Tanglewood Fellowship, the 2009 Polyphonos competition (U.S. Composer category winner), a Javits Fellowship from the U.S. Department of Education, the 2004 Jerome Commissioning Competition, and the Max Janowski Young Artist Award. His music has been selected for performance at the Bowdoin, SICPP, Tanglewood, Wellesley, and Fast Forward Austin festivals. Some upcoming projects include a solo piano piece inspired by the Last Pictures project of Trevor Paglen, called EchoStar XVI, commissioned by Nolan Pearson; a work for the Antares Project dealing with the idea of 21st-Century drones, for a Berlin premiere in the fall of 2013; a large chamber piece inspired by and incorporating the sermons of the late eminent Rabbi Arnold J. Wolf, commissioned by KAM Isaiah Israel Congregation in Chicago, featuring the Spektral Quartet, Nolan Pearson, Julia Bentley, and Alan Dunbar; and a dramatic song cycle for mezzo-soprano Laura Mercado-Wright and pianist Ryan MacEvoy McCullough, setting six night poems by Rainer Maria Rilke, called Mondnacht. His work, Towards the Flame has been released on the album Atlas on New Dynamic Records, performed by the Cadillac Moon Ensemble.

Shawn grew up in Newport News, Virginia, where he began his musical education as a saxophonist. He holds degrees in composition and saxophone performance from St. Olaf College (B.M.) and Ithaca College (M.M.). He has participated in master classes with Tristan MurailGeorge CrumbOliver KnussenJohn Harbison, and Mark-Anthony Turnage. He is currently pursuing a PhD in Composition at the University of Chicago, where he has studied composition with Augusta Read Thomas, Shulamit Ran, and Marta Ptaszynska.

Featured Recordings

Live Performance by eighth blackbird

for two alto saxophones, mallet percussion, and piano

live performance by Zach Herchen, Philipp Stäudlin, Ryan Packard, and Aaron Likness, June 26th, 2011


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