Universe of Sound


JOHN SHARPLEY, composer, performer and teacher, possesses a unique and multi-faceted career that spans geographic and cultural borders. He earned a Doctorate in Music Composition from Boston University; a Bachelor of Music and Master of Music degrees from the University of Houston; and, diplomas for piano, violin, and composition at the National Conservatory of Music in Strasbourg, France. His composition teachers include Michael Horvit, David Del Tredici, John Harbison and Leonard Bernstein. His piano teachers include his mother, Geraldine Sharpley, Bill Chaisson, Ruth Tomfohrde, Olivier Gardon, Lily Krauss and John Perry.

He was appointed Assistant Professor of Music at Boston University in 1985 to co-direct a pioneering music program in Singapore. He has since held teaching positions at Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (Singapore) and LaSalle College of the Arts (Singapore) where he currently lectures and where is he is developing both a course and a book based on improvisation for classical musicians. He was co-founder of OperaViva (Singapore), Our Music Foundation (Kathmandu) and was also formerly composer-in-residence for the Singapore Symphony Orchestra.

He has been internationally featured as both composer and pianist in numerous concerts, conferences, residences and festivals recently including the Performer’s Present Symposium, Yong Siew Toh Conservatory (Singapore), Illinois Wesleyan University, the New Composition Festival (Bangkok), the Texas Music Teacher’s Association Convention, the Asian Composers League Festivals (New Zealand, Taiwan, Singapore, the Philippines), Singapore Piano Pedagogy Symposium, the Australasian Piano Pedagogy Symposium (Melbourne), Across Oceans International Festival (Toronto), the Autumn Artist Festival (Houston) and the Hong Kong Asian Arts Festival, San Francisco State University, Hendrix College (Arkansas), University of Kansas, Concordia (Montreal), University of Houston and the Present of Orchestra Festival (Kyoto, Japan), Universe of Sound (Singapore) and Our Music Foundation Nepal (Kathmandu).

Sharpley’s honours include the Texas Music Teacher’s Association Composition Commissioning Prize, an American Cine-Eagle Award (October Garden), and the New York Film Festival Award (Silent Hope). The film Gourmet Baby scored by Sharpley that has been featured in major international film festivals including New York and Los Angeles. Datura, a Singaporean film that Sharpley scored, won the Singapore International Film Festival Award for Best Short Film. He was awarded a special citation from Stanford University (USA) in recognition of his contributions as a teacher and is listed in the Cambridge Dictionary of International Biography, the American Biographical Institute and the Who's Who in American Universities and Colleges.He is the recipient of numerous grants and awards and is featured on several commercial recordings.

Sharpley's compositions include orchestral works, opera, music for theatre, film and dance scores, chamber music, songs, and solo piano works. The Singapore Symphony Orchestra, the China Philharmonic Orchestra, the Houston Symphony Orchestra, the St. Petersburg (Russia) Philharmonic, the Novosibirsk Philharmonic, the Sheffield Winds (Chicago), the T’ang String Quartet, the Young Voices of Melbourne, the Taipei Chamber Singers, the Singapore Chinese Orchestra and Bridges Collective (Melbourne) are some of the prominent ensembles that have performed and recorded Sharpley's compositions. He also collaborated with the rock group R.E.M.,composing an arrangement for the song Lotus available on their album “Up”. Recent works include Mandala (2013) for an ensemble of Chinese instruments, a song cycle based on Kahlil Gibran’s ‘The Prophet’ (2014) which was later expanded into A Moment of Rest Upon the Wind (2017), a chamber opera, The Tanglin Tree (2015), a chamber work, Singapore Dreams (2015), Stirrings: Scenes from a Rainforest for Chinese Orchestra (2016), Native American Song Fantasies for solo piano (2016), Operatti Vegetalis, a chamber opera (2018) and full-scale opera, Fences Of The Heart 2012 / revised 2019). His most recent work is In The Middle Of A Smile, in collaboration with dancer Maxine Heppner (2020).


"Sharpley's [music] is an undulating flow of notes that suggest the elusive beauty of spare, pristine phenomena."

- The Globe and Mail (Toronto)

"...Sharpley's musical ideas communicate with directness of utterance and clarity of procedure, developing with transparency of logic, yet paradoxically still sounding like it probes the mysteriously sublime."

- The Arts Magazine (Singapore)

“…[Sharpley’s] music bears a rich patina of eastern influences….and fervent lyricism”

- Opera Magazine (UK)

“Sharpley ranks as the leading composer of opera in Singapore and one of the most important in Asia.”

- Der neue Merker (Vienna)