Joseph Sheehan is a composer, pianist, and educator immersed in three music traditions: jazz, classical, and traditional West African music. Sheehan's music and performances embrace a diversity of music traditions and perspectives, woven together to express ideas of tolerance, unity, and wisdom. His work is informed by ten years of university studies in classical composition, culminating in a doctoral degree; three in-depth research trips to Ghana to study its traditional music and dance; and hundreds of performances on piano playing jazz, world, pop, R&B, and other genres.
At the heart of Sheehan's work is Kinetic, a music collective he founded whose performance efforts blend global folk traditions and contemporary jazz. The collective's members comprise many accomplished and creative musicians based in Pittsburgh. Kinetic has released two albums merging folk songs from Ghana with original music: Songs of Lake Volta (2018, Ansonica) and Dances of Lake Volta (2021, Vox Volta). Songs of Lake Volta received critical acclaim from music websites (Textura.org, a top 20 classical release in 2018; Sonagrama.org; Worldmusiccentral.org). Its sequel, Dances of Lake Volta, deepened collaboration and connections with Ghanaian music and musicians and was performed for Chamber Music Pittsburgh's Just Summer Series and at Con Alma Downtown. Kinetic has performed at festivals, universities, and venues in Toronto, New York City, Philadelphia, and Pittsburgh. It has also been featured on Americana Radio, WQED Classical FM, and National Public Radio. A planned seven concert tour to China is being rescheduled due to the pandemic.
In addition to his work with Kinetic, Sheehan designs and performs musical experiences that present creativity, difference, and unity among different music traditions. Examples include world music concerts for Chamber Music Pittsburgh and Duquesne University featuring classical, jazz, and folk musicians from these traditions; performances at the Clazz International Music Festival at the boundaries of classical and jazz; and genre-defying multidisciplinary concerts with the Groove Aesthetic that involve dance, hip-hop cyphers, and visual art.
Sheehan performs frequently as a jazz pianist for the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, and at jazz venues, with many leading musicians in the Pittsburgh region. His compositions have been performed by artist faculty at the Clazz International Music Festival in Arcidosso, Italy, and by percussionist Lisa Pegher throughout the East Coast. Other performances include music festivals (Monadnock Emerging Artists Series, Three Rivers Arts Festival, Aspen Music Festival); concert halls (Miller Theater NYC, Perelman Theater Philadelphia); music conferences (ITG, CMS); universities (Colorado State, Colorado Mesa, Boston, West Virginia, Duquesne); and museums and libraries (Andy Warhol Museum; Carnegie Library).
At Duquesne University, Sheehan has taught classes in musicianship, songwriting, African music, music composition, rhythm, and minimalism, and at Maymester study abroad programs in Rome and Ghana.
Areas of expertise:
- Music Composition
- Jazz Piano
- Collaborative Music Performance