Music I Am #30 – Stephanie Ann Boyd, composer

The moment when you knew you wanted to be a musician:

There were a few moments that led up to deciding to be a composer as a profession:

  1. When I was in first grade, the fourth-grade string orchestra came to our classroom and played some Pachelbel and I was transfixed. I couldn’t believe the gorgeousness I was hearing, and I couldn’t decide which instrument was the most beautiful to me, though the year after that I would start my tenure in the instrumental world as a little violinist.
  2. In middle school I remember my music teacher and my art teacher pretending to argue over which world young Stephanie was going to end up in because both art and music were my favorite (read: obsessed!!) subjects: after one of these interactions I thought about the problem seriously and decided that music would be a greater challenge for me (it was hard for me to learn how to read music and I didn’t get along with music theory until much, much later in life) so I was in a way intellectually obligated to go the musical route. By 8th grade, when our German language teacher Frau Walsh was teaching us how to say “when I grow up I want to be____”, I was answering “a composer”.
  3. And of course in high school when I realized that I could get the same goosebumps from my own orchestra music that I got when playing Shostakovich and Tchaikovsky in youth orchestra, boy oh boy was I doubly sold!!!

An important skill for a career in music that does not have anything to do with an instrument or making music:

Being fun to be around. Maybe it’s simplistic but I offer it very, very seriously. Life already comes fully equipped with difficult (learning) moments and difficult people and because our world often requires so, so, so many hours of collaboration and immensely hard work and odd hours, having good social energy and being kind and coming to rehearsal/meetings/whathaveyou with an attitude of optimism, curiosity, and gratitude is definitely going to be considered–consciously or unconsciously, it doesn’t matter–when folks are deciding whether you get hired next time.

Two ways you stay motivated:

TAKING TIME TO IMAGINE THE FUTURE I set aside time at the beginning of the week and at the beginning of each quarter to go over my project goals and other ideas that excite me and inspire me so that I know where I’m going! Since I’m both the queen bee and the worker bee in my little composing-company-of-one and I spend most of my time doing the worker bee tasks, it’s very important for me to give myself the “eagle eye view” of things and the future in general so that I can remind myself where this is all going and make decisions on the week/months scale instead of what I do daily which is just prioritizing the tasks for that day. TAKING TIME TO TAKE COMFORT FROM THE PAST In the hours I feel the most artistically vulnerable or just plain exhausted and feel myself getting dour, I make myself remember similar times where I felt uncertain of my capabilities but how whatever I was working on turned out just fine (and often ended up being one of the best instances of music-making in my life thus far). So again, I suppose that’s another way of getting the “eagle eye view” but looking backwards this time to help bolster my courage.

Latest Project:

My very first album is coming out in a few months! ON LP!!!!!!! Hilariously, a few years ago my Complete Works of Shakespeare fell on my record player and absolutely demolished (talk about symbolic) it so I’m in the market for a new one and am taking recommendations ; )

What inspired it:

My incredible colleagues James Hall (flute) and Susie Maddocks (piano) of duo970 have between them commissioned several pieces from me in the last 8 years and have taken my music on three tours since Covid, most recently playing my flute + piano sonata Songbird now at least 20 times. On last year’s tour–the program also included Hydrangea from Flower Catalog, commissioned by Susie in 2020–they decided that they should go ahead and do an album of all my flute-involved chamber music. James, a professor at University of Northern Colorado, was granted a sabbatical this past year and funding to produce the album so we’ve been busy making all the many, many decisions that go into such a tangible piece of art, and we’ve been enjoying the extra excuse to spend a lot more time together!

Who’s on it:

James Hall, flute Susie Maddocks, piano Tim Gocklin, oboe Becky Osterberg, cello

How do you discover new music?

For a good bit of my 20s I was one of two contemporary classical music critics for American Record Guide (I currently only write for I Care if You Listen) and discovered boatloads of new music that way; now I find myself meeting and becoming friends with new works either by attending the concerts of my friends here in NYC or when I’m doing the research for a new piece (lots of time on YouTube, lots of time at the absolutely mind-blowing Performing Arts Library at Lincoln Center, lots of time deeeeeep down rabbit holes at odd times of night or morning).

One living and one dead musician that deserves more attention:

Coming from the violin world, I wish more people knew about Maud Powell and her incredible talent as a violin soloist, her GROUNDBREAKING actions and influence in the classical music world during her lifetime, and her impassioned efforts to record works thanks to very, very early gramophone technology. Also wish that my 96-year-old grandmother had (or had had) an audience larger than just her family for her music. Since she was a teenager she’s been her own George AND Ira, writing 1940’s style “pop songs” that are catchy to the same caliber (strong words I know but I cannot overstate how inspiring her work is to me), but her clever and sometimes heart-breakingly poignant lyrics are from the perspective of a lower-middle class housewife in the 1950s and wowee did she have some big opinions on the issues of the day!! So one of my non-career musical tasks has been working to record and write down her works because though she’s been INCREDIBLY prolific (I have at best a solid 3% of the talent that she does), let alone for someone who never could learn how to read music, most of these pieces have never before been put down onto paper and are still only extant in her (for now) incredible memory.

Where can we find you online?

Instagram: @stephanieannboyd


Upcoming Event you’d like to share?

Stay tuned for the album drop at the end of the summer!










Stephanie Ann Boyd wrote the amazingly beautiful solo Esperanza for my New Lullaby Project. It is recorded on Nights Transfigured (Stone Records) and the score can be found in the American Composers Alliance New Lullaby Project Anthology Volume 1 Nights Transfigured. It is on a concert at Bargemusic in Brooklyn on October 6, 2023.

Stephanie and Aaron, NYC 2017

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