The Composer




​​Earl Louis Stewart 


was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, in 1950.  His musical studies began with the piano at age six.  By his twelfth birthday, he had learned to play the trumpet, winning him numerous honors.  During his teenage years and early twenties, his trumpet prowess and musical acumen blended harmoniously, qualifying him to write musical arraingements and assimilate into pick-up bands with touring performers, such as Percy Sledge, Sly Johnson, Garland Green and King Floyd.


     He received his BS in Secondary Education from Southern University, Baton Rouge, studying under Walter Craig and the late jazz great Alvin Batiste at the 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.



Composer and Conducter...


     Dr. Stewart was greatly influenced by the Modern Jazz Quartet.  For the past 40 years, he has been commited to the applications of advanced counterpoint in jazz and jazz derived styles.  This group was significant to him because they combined jazz with baroque music.  Dr. Stewart proclaims the art of counterpoint is the combinations of melodies into a higher unit, which creates the harmony.  Europeans were masters of  the contrapuntal technique, and it was foundational in the beginnings of  thier musical developments. The music was principally polyphonic; in fact, the rhythmic  composites of African-derived music enjoyed throughout the world is fundamentally polyphonic. By combining rhythm and melody in certain ways in the vernacular, one finds that baroque music is compatible.  Understanding this principle has resulted in Dr. Stewart's creation of inumerous jazz fugues, inventions, and other contrapuntal creations in the style of African and African-derived music.


     Dr. Stewart’s works have been performed at venues in Louisiana, Texas, Massachusetts, New York, Alabama, North Carolina, California and Africa.  The Second Annual Louisiana Composers’ Symposium (1975), presented by The New Orleans Public Schools Jazz Artist In Residence Program, showcased Stewart’s "An Appropriate Title," (Identity 6),  performed by  jazz great Julian 'Cannonball' Adderley and 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:


     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.


    InDecember 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  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.”


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Copyright © Earl Louis Stewart 2016