Joseph Sheehan is a composer, pianist, and educator immersed in classical, jazz, and world musics. In his compositions, performances, and teaching, Sheehan works to connect with people in deep and meaningful ways, and to discover connections between diverse musical communities.
Sheehan's music celebrates and explores a tapestry of both song and dance, forms at the root of many musical cultures throughout the world. An independent study of traditional song and dance in Ghana, West Africa, from 2008-09, was especially influential on Sheehan's musical language. West African music, as well as jazz, has informed recent pieces such as Vibraphone Loops, for vibes and tape, featuring a solo percussionist accompanied by soulful harmonies and synth loops; and Dances from Afar, a suite of three distinctive dances for violin and piano. Sheehan has also written nine original songs for the ensemble Kinetic, a group of Pittsburgh jazz musicians fluent in many other styles. These songs blend melodies and rhythms from afro-pop, traditional West African music, and contemporary jazz into unique compositions brought to life by the performers.
Other ensembles performing Sheehan's music include the Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble, the Aspen Contemporary Ensemble, the Alea III Ensemble, Overarts, and the Kuttner Quartet. In 2007 the Indiana University New Music Ensemble performed Suspended in Perpetual Ascent in Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, and New York City as part of an East Coast tour; and the American Composers Orchestra read Sail Away to Soft, Sweet Bells at the 2005 Underwood New Music Readings. Sheehan has won top composition prizes from BMI (two William Schuman prizes for most outstanding score), NFMC, and Indiana University, and was a fellow at the 2008 Aspen Summer Music Festival.
As a pianist Sheehan performs jazz, R&B, hip-hop, folk, classical, and world music at venues all over the Pittsburgh area, including the 2011 Pittsburgh International JazzLive Festival and the Three Rivers Arts Festival. He performs and sings regularly with Pittsburgh groups Kinetic, Trio+, and the Tana Jam Band; and is a founding member of Groove Aesthetic, and artist collective that produces innovative cross-genre concerts.
Dr. Sheehan holds a D.M. (2008) and M.M. (2004) in composition from Indiana University, Bloomington, IN, and a B.A. (2002) in music technology from Duquesne University. He currently serves as an assistant professor at Duquesne University's innovative Musicianship Department in Pittsburgh, PA.