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Stephen Paulus

Stephen Paulus

Country of origin: United States of America
Birthday: August 24, 1949
Date of death: October 19, 2014

About Stephen Paulus

Hailed by The New Yorker as “...a bright, fluent inventor with a ready lyric gift,” Stephen Paulus was a prolific and beloved American composer whose output of more than 300 works is represented in many genres, including music for orchestra, chorus, chamber ensembles, solo voice, keyboard and opera. Paulus received commissions from countless organizations, including the New York Philharmonic, Cleveland Orchestra, Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, Minnesota Orchestra, Dallas Symphony Orchestra, The Houston Symphony and St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, with subsequent performances from the orchestras of Los Angeles, Philadelphia, St. Louis, the National Symphony Orchestra, and the BBC Radio Orchestra. He served as Composer in Residence for the orchestras of Atlanta, Minnesota, Tucson and Annapolis, and his works have been championed by such eminent conductors as Sir Neville Marriner, Kurt Masur, Christoph von Dohanyi, Leonard Slatkin, Yoel Levi, the late Robert Shaw, and numerous others.

Paulus received commissions from some of the world’s great solo artists, including Thomas Hampson, Håkan Hagegård, Doc Severinsen, William Preucil, Cynthia Phelps, Evelyn Lear, Leo Kottke and Robert McDuffie. Chamber music commissions resulted in works for The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, Friends of Music at the Supreme Court, the Cleveland Quartet and Arizona Friends of Chamber Music. He was a featured guest composer at the festivals of Aspen, Santa Fe, Tanglewood, and, in the U.K., the Aldeburgh and Edinburgh Festivals.

As one of contemporary music's pre-eminent composers of opera, Paulus wrote nine works for the dramatic stage. The Postman Always Rings Twice was the first American production to be presented at the Edinburgh Festival, and has received nine productions to date. Paulus received commissions and performances from such companies as the Opera Theatre of St. Louis, Washington Opera, Boston Lyric Opera, Florida Grand Opera, Berkshire Opera Company, Minnesota Opera, and Fort Worth Opera, among others, as well as many universities and colleges.

His choral works have been performed and recorded by some of the most distinguished choruses in the United States, including the New York Concert Singers, Dale Warland Singers, Los Angeles Master Chorale, Robert Shaw Festival Singers, New Music Group of Philadelphia, Master Chorale of Washington DC, Vocal Arts Ensemble of Cincinnati, Mormon Tabernacle Choir, and dozens of other professional, community, church and college choirs. He is one of the most frequently recorded contemporary composers with his music being represented on over fifty recordings.

A recipient of both Guggenheim and NEA Fellowships, Paulus was a strong advocate for the music of his colleagues. He was co-founder and later a Board Vice President of the highly esteemed American Composers Forum, the largest composer service organization in the world. Paulus served on the ASCAP Board of Directors as the Concert Music Representative, a post he held starting in 1990. Paulus’ music has been described by critics and program annotators as rugged, angular, lyrical, lean, rhythmically aggressive, original, often gorgeous, moving, and uniquely American. He wrote in a musical language that the Cleveland Plain Dealer characterized as “...irresistible in kinetic energy and haunting in lyrical design.” The New York Times adds “Mr. Paulus often finds melodic patterns that are fresh and familiar at the same time....His scoring is invariably expert and exceptionally imaginative in textures and use of instruments.” Stephen Paulus passed away in October 2014 from complications of a stroke.



Born in Summit, New Jersey
Earned B.A. in Liberal Arts from University of Minnesota
Earned Masters in Theory and Composition from University of Minnesota
Earned Ph.D in Music Theory and Composition from University of Minnesota, where he studied with Dominick Argento
The Village Singer premieres with Opera Theatre of St. Louis
The Postman Always Rings Twice premieres at Opera Theatre of St. Louis
The Postman Always Rings Twice in European debut at the Edinburgh Festival
The Woodlanders premieres with Opera Theatre of St. Louis
Concertante premieres with Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Yoel Levi, as part of Orchestra Residency Program
Elected to the ASCAP Board of Directors as the Concert Music Representative
The Woman at Otowi Crossing debuts with Opera Theatre of St. Louis
Summer premieres with the Berkshire Opera Company on their 15th Anniversary Celebration
Heloise and Abelard premieres at the Juilliard Opera Center