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Internationally performed composer, master shakuhachi performer, and lecturer Shawn Renzoh Head continues to transcend borders through his music; mixing Japanese traditional music with a distinct western compositional style. Having studied with some of the world’s foremost shakuhachi masters, Michael Chikuzen Gould and Kaoru Kakizakai, Shawn has become the youngest non-Japanese to receive a Shihan (Master’s Certification) in shakuhachi. In addition to his studies in traditional Japanese music, Shawn earned his undergraduate degree at the Cleveland Institute of Music where he studied with composers Keith Fitch and Steven Kohn.
Shawn's music is primarily focused on chamber and solo repertoire and are influenced by Japanese traditional music. Shawn is of the mind that in order to gain a fuller understanding of another culture's aesthetic traditions and histories, you must be able to understand the language of the people who liven that culture. He believes that his fluency in Japanese helps him to respectfully employ elements of Japanese music, such as Hogaku (邦楽), Zen Music (禅音楽) , and Gagaku (雅楽). Musicians refer to Shawn's music as "A deeply felt Japanese sentiment structured with a virtuosic western filigree." -Mikhail Vayman. Performers have said, "When playing Shawn's music, I feel that I need to open my musical perspective to colors, techniques, and tonalities I don't get to use often while playing western repertoire."-Leah Stevens. Shawn has recently been commissioned to compose a work shakuhachi (尺八) and String Quartet with the goal of fusing western classicism and Japanese aesthetics and sensibility. Shawn's music has been performed by members of the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, Cleveland Orchestra, Cleveland Institute of Music faculty and staff, as well as Ball State University faculty. Most recently, Mary Kay Fink of the Cleveland Orchestra commissioned Shawn to compose a work for PAND (performers and artist for nuclear disarmament) for the 70th anniversary of the Nagasaki and Hiroshima bombings in Japan.
As a performer Shawn has made it his goal to popularize the shakuhachi both in its traditional form and a modern western. Over the past two years, he has performed on over 200 concerts featuring the shakuhachi as well as doing outreach to all parts of the community and college lectures. "Shawn Head's performance of shakuhachi music during our recent Classical Revolution Cleveland show was truly stunning. His technical and musical command of the instrument were stunning, and the repertoire performed was captivating. It was the first time CRC has incorporated music from that genre in our shows, and it was eye-opening…."– Ariel Clayton Karas.
Since the beginning of 2015 Shawn has been appearing as a guest lecturer for Japanese music, culture, aesthetic, and religion, along with western composition, and improvisation. He has presented at Case Western Reserve University, the Cleveland Institute of Music, OTAJ (Ohio Teachers'Association of Japanese), Cleveland One World Festival, Ball State University, and was appointed as faculty at the Benefic Chamber Music Camp by artistic director Anna Vayman.
Shawn is currently based in Houston, Texas where he is actively serving his community as a performer.