Shepherd, a 1997 Reed High School graduate, said that because of early music education, he has pursued a career in the arts, which has lead him from Sparks to New York.
Although Shepherd now lives in New York, he has returned to northern Nevada as the Reno Philharmonic’s composer-in-residence.
“This is a terrific idea that Laura Jackson had,” Shepherd said of the program created by the Reno Phil’s music director. “It is really exciting to hear that there is someone in Reno doing some really exciting things.”
Since graduating from the Juilliard School in 2004 with a master’s degree in composition, Shepherd said he has worked with groups on all levels including the McQueen High School orchestra, Cleveland Orchestra and the New York Philharmonic as well as having his music performed by orchestras in Europe.
“It’s been a great thing so far,” Shepherd said of the Composer-in-Residence program. “It is great that Jackson and (Director) Tim Young and the board have extended the title of composer-in-residence.”
On Sunday, Shepherd will debut the first piece he has composed during his residency.
“With each of these residencies I will write a piece,” Shepherd said, explaining a second piece will debut in the fall.
“Silvery Rills” is inspired directly by Nevada’s beautiful and unique landscape, Shepherd said, as well as the state’s song “Home Means Nevada.” Shepherd added that even the title “Silvery Rills” is essential Nevada.
“It is a carved rock from either water or wind,” Shepherd said. “I loved the metaphor of this natural thing. I think a lot of how Nevada is such a natural place.”
Although he said the piece is about Nevada for Nevada, Shepherd admitted it is a metaphor for himself, too, and how his experiences have shaped him since he left Reno 15 years ago.
“I feel like it is my response to nature aspects of Nevada,” Shepherd said. “I am not trying to tell anyone a story or trying to make them feel something. I feel like my job as an artist and musician is to push things forward and it is my take on this idea.
There are some very exciting brass moments,” Shepherd said. “It is meant to be a one of a kind piece, just like anyone in Nevada.”
Also unique, Shepherd said that although he started playing the flute as a student in Washoe County, it was the bassoon that ended up being his instrument of choice.
“It was put into my hands in middle school,” Shepherd said. “I started with the flute and moved on from there. I use a piano as a tool when I am composing.”
On Wednesday, Shepherd was taking time to speak with students about the opportunities music could bring them.
“We talked about sounds,” Shepherd said of his visit to Bernice Mathews Elementary School in Reno. “How to express a feeling in sound, how are sounds and words different and how can music express things that words can’t.
“I also like to get kids to think about the possibilities in their future,” Shepherd said. “A lot of work that I am doing as composer-in-residence is with the school district. I’m talking to fourth graders, eighth graders, 12th graders, I’m taking to students at (the University of Nevada, Reno). I’m interested in sharing my experience with people here because I am from here.”
“Silvery Rills” will be performed at 4 p.m. Sunday and 7:30 p.m. Tuesday. Also at the Discover New Worlds show will be “Spices, Perfumes, Toxins!” by Avener Dorman performed by PercaDu and “The Planets, op. 2” by Gustav Holst.
Tickets start at $28 with discounts for students and seniors. Tickets can be purchased by calling 323-6393, 686-6600 or by visiting www.renophil.com or www.getyourcultureon.com.
The performances will take place at the Pioneer Center for the Performing Arts located at 100 S. Virginia St. in downtown Reno.