Dr. Shawn Okpebholo Honored with Three Composition Awards

March 17, 2017

Dr. Shawn Okpebholo, Associate Professor in the Wheaton College Conservatory of Music, recently received three awards for his work as a composer: the Adams-Owens Composition Prize from the African American Art Song Alliance, second place in the 2016 American Prize in Composition (Orchestra Division), and first place in the Flute New Music Consortium Composition Competition.

Okpebholo, a member of the Conservatory faculty since 2010, is a widely sought-after composer whose works have been performed in five continents, over 30 states, and nearly every major U.S. city. In 2015, he released his debut album, Steal Away, which reimagines traditional Negro spirituals. Okpebholo’s compositions are diverse and dynamic, and they span genres and styles from contemporary classical to liturgical.

The Adams-Owens Composition prize is awarded to an African-American composer who has contributed significantly to the field of composition. Okpebholo received the award from internationally acclaimed African-American composer H. Leslie Adams during the African American Art Song Conference in February. 

Okpebholo won second place in the 2016 American Prize in Composition (Orchestra Division) for his composition Kutimbua Kivumbi (Stomp the Dust!). This prestigious national competition awards prizes celebrating American excellence across the arts. Okpebholo’s composition was inspired by his recent sabbatical trip to Kenya, where he studied the music of the Akamba people in the Machakos region. The piece was premiered by the Wheaton College Symphony Orchestra in 2016.  

Okpebholo was awarded first place in the 2016 Flute New Music Consortium Composition Competition for his composition On a Poem by Miho Nonaka: Harvard Square. The solo flute piece was inspired by Okpebholo’s friend and colleague Miho Nonaka, Associate Professor of English.  

“I am honored to receive awards from the The American Prize, the African American Art Song Alliance, and the Flute New Music Consortium,” Okpebholo says. “I deeply respect each of these organizations and am grateful to them for their work to advance the field of composition. I am also thankful for the spirit of collaboration at Wheaton College and for my faculty colleagues who inspired and shaped my recent work.” 

The Wheaton College Conservatory of Music provides students with comprehensive instruction that cultivates creativity, proficiency, and achievement in a Christ-centered environment. For more information, visit wheaton.edu/conservatory.