Dr. Shawn E. Okpebholo - Wheaton College. Wheaton, IL, US

Dr. Shawn E. Okpebholo Dr. Shawn E. Okpebholo

Associate Professor of Music | Wheaton College

Wheaton, IL, US

Dr. Okpebholo's areas of interest include contemporary classical music, the Negro spirituals and non-Western musical styles.






Steal Away: Album Sampler Deep River : Shawn E. Okpebholo | Wheaton College Women’s Chorale Shawn Okpebholo: X | Wheaton College Percussion Ensemble Kutimbua Kivumbi ( Wheaton College TowerTalks | Classical Training Strengthened by Cultural Roots | Dr. Shawn Okpebholo




Shawn E. Okpebholo 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, in five continents (Africa, Asia, Europe, North and South Americas), in over thirty states, and in nearly every major U.S. city. Distinguished venues and festivals include: The Kennedy Center and the National Cathedral (Washington, D.C.); Orchestra Hall (Chicago); Monte Music Festival (Goa, India); CBDNA National Conference (Seattle, WA); MusicX Contemporary Music Festival (Cincinnati); PRIZM Concert Series (Memphis); and the state music festivals of Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio and Texas. Dr. Okpebholo has received numerous commissions from noted soloists, universities and organizations, including the International Tuba and Euphonium Association, the United States Air Force, the Ohio Music Education Association. Some noted performing artists and ensembles include: The Cadillac Moon Ensemble, Picosa Ensemble, United States Army Field Band, euphonium virtuoso Steven Mead, baritone Will Liverman, pianist Paul Tuntland Sánchez, mezzo-soprano J’nai Bridges, flutist Caen Thomason-Redus and violists Dorthy White Okpebholo. His compositions can be heard on a variety of commercially released CDs. His first album solely devoted to his music, Steal Away, is a collection of Negro spirituals that he re-imagined.

As an academic, Dr. Okpebholo has guest lectured and given master classes at many 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, including first prize in the Accent06 International Composition Competition and an annual recipient of the ASCAPlus awards since 2004. He was also one of eighteen featured composers in Volume IV of the book series, "Composers on Composing for Band," edited by Mark Camphouse.

Currently, Dr. Okpebholo 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 University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music.

Areas of Expertise (10)

Music History Music Theory Negro Spirituals Contemporary Music Composition Classical Music Composition Classical Music American Music American Classical Music Charles Ives Art Music

Accomplishments (4)

Accent06 International Composition Competition (professional)

First Prize

KMEA All-Collegiate Composition Contest (professional)

First Prize

Peniston Honors in Composition (professional)

First Prize

ASCAPlus Awards (professional)

Annual Recipient Since 2004

Education (3)

University of Cincinnati, College-Conservatory of Music: D.M.A., Music Composition 2007

University of Cincinnati, College-Conservatory of Music: M.M., Music Composition 2005

Asbury College: B.A., Music Composition and Music History 2003

Affiliations (4)

  • Association of Songwriters Composers and Publishers (ASCAP)
  • Society of Music Incorporated (SCI)
  • Christian Fellowship of Art Music Composers (CFAMC)
  • American Composers Forum (ACF)

Media Appearances (1)

Wheaton College Conservatory Professor Reimagines Negro Spirituals in New Album "Steal Away"

Chicago Tribune  online


Dr. Shawn E. Okpebholo, Associate Professor in the Wheaton College Conservatory of Music, recently released his debut album, Steal Away, on Yellow Einstein Records.

Okpebholo, a member of the Conservatory faculty since 2010, is an award-winning composer whose music has been performed on five continents and more than 30 states. His compositions range from contemporary classical to liturgical...

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Articles (2)

Symphony No. 1: Symphony on Spirituals Ohio Library and Information Network (OhioLINK)


The symphony has been a creative outlet for many composers throughout the history of Western music. Similarly, Negro slave songs were a creative way slaves conveyed their thoughts and emotions. In this symphonic work, I use Negro spiritual melodies, for which I have a strong penchant and personal connection, to form the foundation. At times the spirituals are quoted literally while at other times the statements of the slave songs are implicit. The spirituals used in this work all have a similar theme of going to a better place, where struggles would cease. This four movement musical journey explores several different musical styles including elements of jazz, minimalism, and neoclassicism.

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Second Quartet Ohio Library and Information Network (OhioLINK)


This string quartet is divided into ten short movements that are named after animal clichés, and all of the movements are dedicated to someone. The music is sometimes representative of the person to whom the movement is dedicated and some of music reflects the title of the movement. To maintain interest among the listener and to demonstrate the eclecticism of the composer, each movement varies in style and harmonic language ranging from 18th century fugue, to pandiatonicism, to serial techniques.

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