Steven M. Allen
A composer, conductor and ethnomusicologist, Steven M. Allen began his undergraduate studies in voice and piano performance at Mary Holmes College, West Point, MS. He then enrolled at Jackson State University, where he developed an intrinsic zeal for conducting and composition under the tutelage of Robert L. Morris.
Upon relocating to Washington, DC area, he studied composition and conducting at Howard University while serving as the assistant choral director. His graduate studies include: composition with Andrew Simpson and Steven Strunk at the Benjamin T. Rome School of Music, The Catholic University of America, ethnomusicology with Kip Lornell, George Washington University, choral conducting and pedagogy with James Jordan, Westminster Choir College and William Weinert, Eastman School of Music.
His compositions encompass a variety of genres and styles ranging from Symphonic Works to various collections of Spirituals and Art Songs for voice and chamber ensemble. Most noted are: Jacob’s Ladder, set for voice, violoncello and piano, Invictus, written in commemoration of the centennial celebration of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc., consisting of male voices, brass and percussion and When My Mother Sang, a collection of the chamber settings of gospel hymns for voice, oboe, clarinet and piano.
Steven’s opera, Lyrics of Sunshine and Shadows: An Opera based on the Lives and Love of Paul Laurence Dunbar and Alice Ruth Moore began in 2007 with the setting of a poem by Dunbar. After further research into the life of the poet, Steven discovered the most infatuating romance chronicled in a collection of correspondences between Dunbar and Moore. The letters continued over two years before the couple . Act I of the work was first performed at The Catholic University of America, 2009. The act was performed again at the Eighth Annual Page-To-Stage Festival, John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, 2010, and by Opera North, Inc., Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 2011.
From the larger work, Steven developed two vignettes: Violets and Other Tales and The Poet: A Chamber Opera of Life and Times of Paul Laurence Dunbar. The Poet was first premiered in 2014 to honor Paul Laurence Dunbar’s birthday, and the opening ceremony of the newly renovated Paul Laurence Dunbar High School, Washington, DC. The work featured the world-renown mezzo-soprano Denyce Graves as Maltida Dunbar, Paul’s mother. Alice Ruth Moore, the love of Paul’s life, featured soprano, Lisa Edwards-Burrs. The role of Major James Pond, Paul’s business manager was played by tenor, Daniel Noone and for the voice of whom the work was written, Gregory J. Watkins, baritone starred as Paul Laurence Dunbar. The Poet is also featured in Beyond the Mask, produced by Frederick Lewis, 2016 as the first PBS documentary on the life of Dunbar. In October of 2017, The South Shore Opera Company of Chicago performed the world premiere of the newly orchestrated work under the musical direction of Leslie B. Dunner.
Allen’s opera is a gorgeous celebration of Dunbar, meticulously thought-out and rendered in a wide variety of musical styles attractively juxtaposed and weaved together. Dunbar’s life straddled the late Romantic and early Impressionistic periods of music, and Allen exploits this fact beautifully. M.L. Rantala, Classical Music Critic, Hyde Park Herald
As an ethnomusicologist, Steven’s extensive research and innate passion for the music and cultural practices of the African Diaspora has influenced the text and curriculum guide: Babylon’s Harps: The History of African-American Music from Civil War to Civil Rights. The research is further demonstrated in an Orchestral Suite inspired by The Harp, a Harlem Renaissance Sculpture by Augusta Savage.
During his tenure at Duke Ellington School of the Arts, Washington, DC, Steven revised the choral music program to include a diverse group of performing ensembles. Two of which he conducted are the esteemed Chamber Singers and The Dukes of Ellington. The ensembles have collaborated with the PostClassical Ensemble, conducted by Angel Gil-Ordóñez on such projects as Harry T. Burleigh meets Antonin Dvorak and Bach and the Divine featuring Kevin Deas, bass-baritone, Soprano, Angela Brown in Opera from A Sista’s Point of View’s, the Stephen Newby and Ja Jahannes’ musical work, Montage for Martin, A Musical Tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., narrated by the National Medal of Arts recipient, George Shirley.
Former Chief Musician at the Historic Metropolitan Baptist Church, Washington, DC, Steven serves on the National Music Committee of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc. and the advisory board of the Coalition of African Americans in the Performing Arts. He’s a member of the American Composers Forum, ASCAP and the National Association of Negro Musicians.