Headshot of 2019 composition fellow Nathan Shields

Nathan Shields


2019 Fellow

Student Sponsorship by Lewis & Adria Kaplan

Nathan Shields weaves diverse influences ranging from Renaissance polyphony to 20th-century expressionism into a distinctly contemporary musical voice of eerie quietude and harrowing emotional intensity. His music, praised for its “elusive luminance” (Washington Post), has been performed by the JACK and Jupiter String Quartets, Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, Tanglewood Brass, the New Fromm Players, Charlottesville Symphony, Chamber Music Northwest, Metropolis Ensemble, Music from Copland House, harpist Bridget Kibbey, pianists Michael Brown and Andrew Hsu, Decoda, and the Horszowski Trio, among others.

Nathan was awarded the 2014 Charles Ives Fellowship from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, Tanglewood’s 2015 Merwin Geffen and Norman Solomon Commission, and a 2015 Fromm Commission, as well as commissions from American Composers Forum, the BMI/Carlos Surinach Fund, and Concert Artists’ Guild. He has received the Aaron Copland Award, Presser Music Award, and BMI and ASCAP awards, and fellowships from Tanglewood, Yaddo, Copland House, Ucross, Juilliard, Brush Creek, the Wellesley Composers Conference, and the Japan Society of Boston, and has given presentations on his music at Tufts University, the Boston University Tanglewood Institute, and the National Youth Orchestra of the United States.

Nathan completed his undergraduate and graduate studies at the New England Conservatory of Music and the Juilliard School, where he was supported by the Irene Diamond Graduate fellowship and earned the Richard F. French Doctoral Prize, studying with Milton Babbitt, Samuel Adler, Lee Hyla, and David Rakowski. He attended composition programs and summer festivals including Tanglewood, Bowdoin, Freie Universität Berlin, the Paris École Normale de Musique (EAMA), and Copland House’s CULTIVATE Institute, receiving mentoring, among others, from Michael Gandolfi, John Harbison, Julian Anderson, Augusta Read Thomas, Derek Bermel, and Robert Beaser.

His writing about music, religion, and politics has appeared in Mosaic magazine, Perspectives of New Music, and other publications, and been praised for its “rare critical discrimination” (the Wall St. Journal’s Gary Rosen). He has been interviewed by NPR, and his writing has been featured on Arts and Letters Daily and The Browser, which selected a 2015 article as one of the year’s best pieces of online writing.