Chatman was born in Faribault, Minnesota, and studied with Joseph R. Wood and Walter Aschaffenburg at the Oberlin Conservatory and with Ross Lee Finney, Leslie Bassett, William Bolcom, and Eugene Kurtz at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, completing a D.M.A. degree in 1977. He also received a Fulbright grant for study with Karlheinz Stockhausen at the Hochschule für Musik in Cologne in 1974 (Meckna 2001).
Since 1976, he has been on the faculty of the University of British Columbia, in Vancouver, where he was promoted to Professor in 1987 (Meckna 2001). He is Head of the Composition Division and became a Member of the Order of Canada in July 2012.
- MacMillan, R. 1980. "Canadian Distinctiveness Influencing Chatman Works". Music Scene, no. 313:8.
- Meckna, Michael. 2001. "Chatman, Stephen." The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, second edition, edited by Stanley Sadie and John Tyrrell. London: Macmillan Publishers.
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