was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana in 1950. His musical studies began with the piano when he was six. At twelve, he added trumpet and won numerous honors for his playing ability. His skill with the trumpet and his ear for music allowed him, in his teens and early 20s, to play with and do musical arrangements for pick-up bands with visiting entertainers to the area - such as Percy Sledge, Syl Johnson, King Floyd and Garland Green.
He received his BS in Secondary Education from Southern University, Baton Rouge, studying under Walter Craig and the late jazz great Alvin Batiste in its Jazz Institute. He then received his MM and DMA in Composition from The University of Texas at Austin, studying with such luminaries as ethnomusicologist Gerard Behague, composers Karl Korte and Joseph Schwantner, and world-renowned orchestrator and author of Counterpoint (the late) Kent Kennan.
Dr. Stewart was greatly influenced by the Modern Jazz Quartet. For the past 40 years, he has been concerned with the application of advanced counterpoint to jazz and jazz derived styles. This group was significant to him because they combined jazz with baroque music. Dr. Stewart stated that the art of counterpoint is the combining of melodies into a higher unit, creating a harmony between them. Europeans were masters of that technique and early European music was based on it. The music was principally polyphonic. As quietly is it’s kept, much African-derived music that we enjoy as a staple of our popular culture is also, fundamentally polyphonic. The rhythmic nature of it makes it so. By combining rhythm and melody in certain ways in the vernacular, one finds that baroque music is compatible. Understanding this principle has resulted in his creation of literally dozens of jazz fugues, inventions, and other contrapuntal creations in the style of African and African-derived music.
Dr. Stewart’s works have been performed in venues in Louisiana, Texas, Massachusetts, New York, Alabama, North Carolina, California and Africa. The Second Annual Louisiana Composers’ Symposium, presented by The New Orleans Public Schools Jazz Artist In Residence Program, presented Stewart’s "An Appropriate Title" (Identity 6) in 1975 performed by jazz great Julian 'Cannonball' Adderley, along with the Southern University Percussion Ensemble.
In addition to conducting, Dr. Stewart’s compositions have been performed by soloists Brenda Wimberly and Carolyn Sebron; and jazz artists Jullian 'Cannonball' Adderly, Alvin Batiste and Kent Jordan. Ensembles who have performed his music include the Southern University Chorus (Baton Rouge, Louisiana); the Southern University Jazz Orchestra; the Boston Orchestra and Choral (Massachusetts); the Scott Joplin Orchestra of Houston (Texas); the University of California Jazz Orchestra; the Mobile Symphony Orchestra (Alabama); and members of the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra.
The 1984 premier of his oratorio Al-Inkishafi (Identity 14) (The Soul’s Awakening), a choral symphonic setting of an East African (Kiswahili) poem, was performed in Austin, Texas. It featured the Austin Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Maestro Sung Kwak; distinguished Mezzo-Soprano Barbara Conrad with the Metropolitan Opera; internationally known choreographer and master of African dance Chuck Davis; the Southern University Chorus of Baton Rouge, Louisiana; English narrator the nationally renowned actor Moses Gunn; and Kiswahili narrator John “Mtembezi” Inniss, along with local dancers.
He served as conductor and artistic director of the Boston Orchestra and Chorale from 1987-1991 and as guest conductor with the Scott Joplin Orchestra of Houston, Texas. In addition, he had conductorial performances with the UCSB Jazz Orchestra.
In 1991, Dr. Stewart was awarded a Fulbright Fellowship to the Republic of Ghana in West Africa, where he served as conductor and composer in residence with the National Symphony Orchestra of Ghana. He conducted Samuel Coleridge-Taylor’s Hiawatha’s Wedding Feast with the National Symphony Orchestra of Ghana and composed several works during his tenure there, including "Tribute to Juneteenth" [renamed Juneteenth Symphony (Identity 34:1)], "Fruits of Austerity" (Identity 34:2), and "Afterthought" (Identity 34:3). “Come Kiss Me Sweet and Twenty" (Identity 33a) the first movement of Three Jazz Songs (Identity 33) based on the poetry of Paul Lawrence Dunbar, had its premiere performance by the National Symphony Orchestra of Ghana. It featured soloists Margaret Ferguson and Theodora Mensah of the National Academy of Music, Winneba, on April 25, 1992, at the Accra International Conference Centre. Dr. Stewart arranged and conducted his American Independence Day Suite (Identity 34:4), which was performed at the American Independence Celebration on July 4, 1992, held at Bud Field, Accra, Ghana and sponsored by the American Embassy in Ghana. This work is an arrangement of traditional American patriotic and popular songs for symphony orchestra.
New York soprano Carolyn Sebron commissioned "Amina" (Identity 25:1), a work using English and Swahili texts, for a special concert of contemporary music. The concert was held in Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall and was sponsored by the ISCM of New York in collaboration with pianist Eliza Garth.
“An Evening of Chamber Music,” in affiliation with North Carolina A & T State University and the North Carolina Music Academy of Greensboro, 2001, saw the performance of Stewart’s "Nakupenda" (Identity 19:2), which is a Kiswahili word meaning 'I love you.' It was originally written as a jazz ballad and was originally premiered at Dillard University in 1997 by flutist Kent Jordan. Concerts named after Stewart’s work "Nakupenda" have been given on Valentine’s Day 2002, 2004 and 2006 at the University of California Santa Barbara. The 3rd Annual Nakupenda Concert: Eclectic Musings, featured original compositions by Dr. Stewart, along with his poetry and a short story. Jazz pianist Richard Thompson (San Diego University), pianist Jeremy Haladyna (College of Creative Studies, UCSB) and author/poet Donald Bakeer performed. The 4th Annual Nakupenda Concert: Bach in the Hood, features his afro-inventions, fugues, and more. Both concerts are currently being aired on UCTV. See: http://www.uctv.ucsb.edu/series/sound.html
Pianist Erin Bronski performed Stewart’s "Afro Inventions" (Identity 38.1) at the Concert with Emma Lou Diemer held September 23, 2012, at the Valley of the Flowers United Church of Christ, Lompoc, California. In addition, his "Blues Fugue in A Minor" [Identity 162b (previously incorrectly identified as Identity 34.1)] was included in The DaPonte String Quartet’s “Made in America Series,” which toured select cities in Maine, Summer 2014.
Works have also been performed at such venues as the Heineken Jazz Festival in Tel Avid, Israel; Milsaps College; Dillard University (New Orleans); Saenger Theatre (Mobile, Alabama); Brooklyn Conservatory of Music (New York); The New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival (Louisiana); the Sixth Annual Biennial International and Symposium Festival on New Intercultural Music, University of London, Institute of Education (England); the University of New Orleans Performing Arts Center Recital Hall (Louisiana); and Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall in New York.
Dr. Stewart is a prolific composer. having written more than 150 major and minor works. More to come...
Stewart, Earl. “Pan-African Classicism and Scott Joplin,” Texas Journal, Vol. 4, No. 1, pp 12-15, Fall/Winter 1991. Print.
Stewart, Earl. “The Black Rhythmic Conception,” Uhuru, Vol. 4, No. 2, pp 68 -69, Ghana, West Africa 1992. Print.
Stewart, Earl. “A Case For The NSO,” Uhuru, Vol. 5, No. 6, pp 43-45, Ghana, West Africa 1993. Print.
Stewart, Earl. “African-American Music,” Encyclopedia of Multiculturalism, pp 1199-1203, Salem Press, Pasadena, California 1993. Print.
Stewart, Earl. “Celebrating Black History Month,” Progressions (newsletter), pp 1-2, Berklee College of Music, Winter 1993. Print.
Stewart, Earl. “From the Lone Star to the Black Star,” Berklee Today: A Forum for Contemporary Music and Musicians, pp 8, Berklee College of Music, Spring 1993. Print.
Duran, Jane and Earl Stewart, “Toward an Aesthetic of Black Musical Expression,” Journal of Aesthetic Education, Vol. 31, No. 1, University of Illinois, Spring 1997. http://links.jstor.org/sici?sici=0021-8510(199721)31%3A1%3C73%3ATAAOBM%3E2.0.CO%3B2-P
Duran, Jane and Earl Stewart. “Form and Nigrecence in African and Afro-North American Arts,” Art & Academe, Vol. 9, No. 1, Visual Arts Press, Summer 1997. Print.
Stewart, Earl. African American Music: An Introduction. New York: Schirmer Books; London: Prentice Hall International, 1998. Print.
Stewart, Earl. “Otis Redding,” Popular Musicians, pp 890-892, Salem Press, Inc., April 1999. Print.
Stewart, Earl and Jane Duran. “Black Essentialism: The Art of Jazz Rap,” Philosophy of Music Education Review, Volume 7, No. 1, Spring 1999. Print.
Stewart, Earl and Jane Duran. “Coleridge-Taylor: Concatenationism and Essentialism in an Anglo-African Composer,” American Philosophical Association Newsletter, Vol. 99, No. 1, Fall 1999. www.apa.udel.edu/apa/publications/newsletters/v99n1/blackexperience/article-stewart.asp
Harris, Leonard, editor, Jane Duran and Earl Stewart, contributors. The Critical Pragmatism of Alain Locke: A Reader on Value Theory, Aesthetics, Community, Culture, Race, and Education, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 1999. www.rowmanlittlefield.com/Catalog/SingleBook.shtmlcommand=Search&db=%5EDB/CATALOG.db&eqSKUdata=0847688089&thepassedurl=%5Bthepassedurl%5D
Stewart, Earl Louis. Eclectic Fables: Seven Tales from the Black Experience, San Bernardino, CA: 1st Books Library, 2002
Duran, Jane and Earl Stewart. “Scott Joplin and the Quest for Identity,” Journal of Aesthetic Education, Vol. 41, No. 2, pp. 94-99, Summer 2007. Print.
Stewart, Dr. Earl L. Vernacular Harmony, San Diego, CA: Cognella, 2010. Print.
Stewart, Earl L. The Art of Soul Music from 1960-1980 (preliminary edition). Debuque, IA: Kendall Hunt Publishing Company, 2012. Print.
In December 2003, Dr. Stewart was stricken with the neurological disorder Guillian-Barre Syndrome. The disorder almost took his life. He was hospitalized - totally paralyzed and unable to talk for months. He remained hospitalized for a year and a half year as his nerves slowly began to rejuvenate, allowing him the chance, through therapy, to walk again. Unfortunately, because of residual paralysis, he can no longer conduct. He stated “During that year and a half, I would hear music in my mind and repeat the music constantly so that I would not forget. Being determined to one day write music again kept me focused on surviving Guillian-Barre Syndrome. The music was always there.”