Robert Shafer (conductor)

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Robert John Shafer, Jr. (born January 1, 1946[1]) is a Grammy Award-winning[2][3] American conductor,[4] classical composer,[5] educator[6][7][8] and church musician (pianist, organist[9][10]). He has served as artistic director[11][12] of the City Choir of Washington since its launch in September 2007.[13][14]

Early life[edit]

Shafer was born on January 1, 1946, in Mooresville, North Carolina, the son of Col. Robert J. Shafer, USAF (Ret). He started studying piano at age 5. Shafer moved with his parents to Germany in 1951, where they were stationed as part of the United States Air Force. His family settled in Vienna, Virginia, in 1954.


Shafer graduated from James Madison High School, in Vienna, Virginia, returning to teach there after college. In college, he earned a B.M. in piano performance and an M.M. in music composition from The Catholic University of America.[15] Shafer studied music composition and conducting for nine summers with Nadia Boulanger[10][16] at Le Conservatoire Américain, France.

Career highlights[edit]

As an educator, Shafer's work at James Madison High School[8] attracted national attention,[6][7] especially for his conducting a first-rate madrigal group. He remained on the high school faculty from 1968 to 1975. From 1972 to 2007, Shafer was music director of The Washington Chorus,[17][18] a leading choral ensemble in the U.S. capital. When he served as music director of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception,[9] he composed and conducted a setting of Tu es Petrus in honor of Pope John Paul’s October 1979 visit to Washington, D.C. In 1983, Shafer was appointed artist-in-residence and professor of music at the Shenandoah Conservatory of Shenandoah University[12][15][19] in Winchester, VA.


Shafer won first prize in composition at Le Conservatoire Américain in 1969. In 1989, he was honored by the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia with an Outstanding Faculty Award[20] for his outstanding public service, research, and teaching. In February 2000, Shafer was honored by the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences with a Grammy Award for Best Choral Performance[2][3][21] for a live-performance recording[12] of Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem.


  • Lux Aeterna, Performance Debut: April 2009.[5]
  • The Mother and the Lamb (anthem), Performance Debut: December 2010.[22]
  • The Annunciation, Performance Debut: December 2014.


  • Dvorák: Stabat Mater / Psalm 149. Naxos Classical Music Catalog. Release Date: 24 Sep 2002.[23][24]
  • Berlioz: Requiem. Gothic Records. Release Date: 6 May 2003.[25]
  • Britten: War Requiem. Composer: Benjamin Britten. Gothic Records. Re-Release Date: 10 May 2005.[26]
  • Noel: A Musical Feast/A Loft & Gothic sampler. Gothic Records, Release Date: 18 Oct 2005.[27]
  • The Very Best Of Dvorák. Naxos Classical Music Catalog, Release Date: 31 Oct 2006.[28]


  1. ^ Robert Shafer (artist page), Classical Archives. Retrieved: November 20, 2011.
  2. ^ a b "Complete Nominations in Classical Music", Billboard Magazine, Arts & Music section, January 22, 2000, pg. 51. Retrieved: November 21, 2011.
  3. ^ a b "Billboard Goes to The Grammys: And the Grammy Winners Are". Billboard Magazine. March 4, 2000.
  4. ^ Stevenson, Joseph. "Robert Shafer Biography", AllMusic. Retrieved 20 Nov 2011.
  5. ^ a b "WETA Conversations: Robert Shafer", WETA 90.9 FM Radio (Arlington, VA), April 14, 2009. Retrieved: November 20, 2011. Excerpt: "The program will feature the world premiere of a new work by Robert Shafer, Lux Aeterna."
  6. ^ a b Ericson, Raymond, "Madrigal Program by Madison Singers," New York Times (newspaper), June 17, 1969, pg 39. Excerpt: "...the Madison Madrigal Singers, an ensemble from the James Madison High School. This year the eight girls and five boys were led by Robert Shafer..."
  7. ^ a b Hughes, Alan, "Music: Young Songsters," New York Times (newspaper), June 23, 1974, Section GN, pg 43. Excerpt: "The James Madison High School in Vienna, Va., has had a vocal music program of high quality for several years, and from time to time its Madison Madrigal Singers have performed here with great success….Robert Shafer"
  8. ^ a b "The Green Room: The Choir Boys", By Erica R. Hendry, editor, Vienna Patch, Vienna, Virginia, January 20, 2011. Retrieved: November 20, 2011.
  9. ^ a b Sacred Music: Journal of the Church Music Association of America, dedicated to the restoration of the sacred in Catholic liturgical life, Richmond, VA, Volume 107, Issue 4, Winter 1980, pg. 24. Excerpts: "The series concludes in April with music for…organs with Robert Gorgan, J. Courtney Hay, Joseph O'Donnell and Robert Shafer as organists."; "Mr. Shafer is director of music for the shrine."
  10. ^ a b Pan pipes of Sigma Alpha Iota, International Music Fraternity (journal), Volumes 68-69, 1975, Pg. 22. Excerpts: "A concert was given in tribute to National Honorary Member Nadia Boulanger by presenting music of her students by her students. J. Reilly Lewis, organist / Robert Shafer, conductor"; "Other numbers were Acclamation and Song for organ solo by Robert Shafer."
  11. ^ Page, Tim. A Musical Reprise for Robert Shafer, The Washington Post, September 1, 2007. Excerpt: "Robert Shafer has been named artistic director of the City Choir of Washington..."
  12. ^ a b c Kuehner, Cathy, Sun Staff Writer. Performance: "Shafer and his new choir debut: Artistic Director Robert Shafer and the City Choir of Washington perform in Alexandria," The Shenandoah Sun, Shenandoah University Newspaper, Winchester, VA, Vol. 15, No. 11, Wednesday, November 7, 2007.
  13. ^ Tidyman, Kathryn. "Robert Shafer Named Artistic Director of New Chorus", U.S. Newswire, September 4, 2007.
  14. ^ Birch, Jeremy D., "Kennedy center: Music by moonlight.", PlaybillArts, June 29, 2008. Retrieved: November 21, 2011.
  15. ^ a b Faculty Bio, Shenandoah University. Excerpt: "Professor of Music (Choirs), Artist in Residence, Vocal-Choral Division." Retrieved November 20, 2011.
  16. ^ American Students of Nadia Boulanger, Boulanger America, 2002. Retrieved: November 21, 2011.
  17. ^ "Robert Shafer bio", The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Retrieved November 20, 2011.
  18. ^ Cary, Emily, "Not-so-silent choral night", The Washington Examiner, December 19, 2006. Retrieved: November 22, 2011. Excerpt: "Robert Shafer conducts the Washington Chorus in a concert of Christmas music..."
  19. ^ Sparber, Gordon, "Shenandoah Choir," The Washington Post, February 13, 1989. Excerpt: "The Splendor of Venice," a concert presented for the Dumbarton Concert Series Saturday night by conductor Robert Shafer and his Shenandoah Conservatory Chamber Choir, gave listeners a thoughtfully prepared glimpse of the musical activity at St. Mark's around the turn of the 17th century..."
  20. ^ "Outstanding Faculty Award Recipients - Past & Present" Archived 2011-12-07 at the Wayback Machine, State Council of Higher Education for Virginia. Retrieved: November 20, 2011.
  21. ^ "Rock Legend Captures 10 Grammy Nods; Carlos Santana Picks Way to Top of Music Heap," Akron Beacon Journal (Ohio), January 5, 2000, pg. B8.
  22. ^ "SU Conservatory presents Festival of Lessons, Carols," Winchester Star (VA), Section: Local News, Thursday, December 2, 2010.
  23. ^ "Dvorák," The Sunday Times, October 20, 2002.
  24. ^ Dvorák: Stabat Mater / Psalm 149, Conductor: Robert Shafer. Orchestra/Ensemble: The Washington Chorus and Orchestra. Label: Naxos Classical Music Catalog. Catalog No.: 8.555301-02, Number of Discs: 2. Retrieved: November 20, 2011.
  25. ^ Requiem, Composer: Hector Berlioz. Conductor: Robert Shafer. Performer: Byron Jones, Tenor. Orchestra/Ensemble: The Washington Chorus and Orchestra, Shenandoah Conservatory Choir. Label: Gothic Records. Catalog No.: G-49212, Number of Discs: 2.
  26. ^ War Requiem. Composer: Benjamin Britten. Conductor: Robert Shafer. Label: Gothic Records. Re-Release Date: 05/10/2005. Orchestra/Ensemble: National Symphony, Washington, D. C., Washington Chorus, Shenandoah Conservatory Choir, Maryland Boy Choir. Catalog No.: G-49241, Number of Discs: 2. Note: Earlier release was self-produced by The Washington Chorus.
  27. ^ Noel: A Musical Feast/A Loft & Gothic sampler, Conductor(s): Robert Shafer, et al. Orchestra/Ensemble: Washington Chorus. Label: Gothic Records. Release Date: 10/18/2005. Catalogue No: G-49244, Number of Discs: 1. Retrieved: November 22, 2011.
  28. ^ The Very Best Of Dvorák, Conductor(s): Robert Shafer, et al. Orchestra(s): National Symphony Orchestra, et al. Label: Naxos Classical Music Catalog. Release Date: 10/31/2006. Catalogue No: 8.552139-40, Number of Discs: 2. Retrieved: November 22, 2011.

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