• Dr. Kenny Sheppard

For 44 years, Professor of Music Dr. Kenny Sheppard has been a steady, driving force behind Southwestern’s Music Department. Over the years he has taught thousands of students, inspiring them and changing lives along the way. He has positively impacted the lives of Southwestern students, alumni, faculty and staff and leaves a lasting legacy in the Sarofim School of Fine Arts.

Dr. Sheppard came to Southwestern in 1974, after nine years of teaching choral music in public schools in Odessa, Big Spring, and McAllen. Under his leadership the Southwestern University Chorale has performed at the Orchestra of Santa Fe Bach Festival, for state and national music conventions, with the Austin Symphony, the Big Spring Symphony, the Fort Worth Symphony, the Temple Symphony, the Austin Civic Orchestra, and the Air Force Band. In 2010, members of the SU Chorale traveled to China to perform with Sheppard at the Oriental Arts Centre in Shanghai as part of the World Expo. In 2013, Dr. Sheppard travelled with the SU Chorale to Italy and performed at several great venues including St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice and St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. In 2016, he led the Chorale in a concert tour of France with performances in Paris, Nice, and Aix-en-Provence.

Dr. Kenny Sheppard was awarded the Texas Choral Directors Association’s top honor at their July 2016 meeting attended by over 1500 choral conductors. The Texas Choirmaster Award is “reserved for a TCDA member with clearly superior choral conducting and musicianship skill with many years of performance success.” Since 1978, only sixteen choral conductors have been awarded this honor.

In addition to numerous choral clinics and festivals, Sheppard’s guest appearances include the Austin Symphony Orchestra, International Festival-Institute at Round Top, Big Spring Symphony, Austin Civic Orchestra, Austin Youth Orchestra, and numerous choral and orchestral festivals throughout the country. Sheppard made his Carnegie Hall debut in 2004 as a guest conductor for Mid-America Productions.

Sheppard is known for his experience conducting choral works with orchestra, having conducted more than sixty such works. As Professor of Music at SU, he conducts the University Chorale and the Southwestern Singers, and he teaches courses related to conducting and teacher preparation. He also conducted the Southwestern University Orchestra for thirteen years, performing with the University Chorale at the Southwest Division meeting of the American Choral Directors’ Association in 1994.

A devoted teacher, Dr. Sheppard has mentored many students who now hold positions as conductors and teachers in public schools, churches, and universities.

Lasting Impact

Dr. Sheppard’s impact on students runs deep, from the current music students to previous graduates who are now well into their careers. In fact, when news of Dr. Sheppard’s last concert spread, SU music alumni jumped at the chance to return to SU and participate.  

Brian Miller, SU ’11, came up with the idea and took the lead on organizing the SU Choir Alumni’s return. Miller, who is the Choir Director at Klein Collins High School in Houston, TX, reached out to music alumni about participating in Dr. Sheppard’s final concert. Based on the response, it’s clear that Dr. Sheppard has made a huge impact over the years.

After graduation, many SU music majors go on to conservatory or to graduate school. Some pursue teaching themselves, leading middle school or high school choirs. SU Chorale alumni are spread across the globe, but there is a common experience that binds them together. They learned from Dr. Sheppard, who encouraged them to challenge themselves and to push themselves out of their comfort zone. He not only molded each one into a better musician but most importantly, into a better person.

As Dr. Sheppard reflects on his time at Southwestern, he recognizes that the University “has provided me with amazing opportunities to grow, meet wonderful people, travel and experience new things.”

It’s incredibly rewarding to “watch students grow and become what they can become.  It is not always easy and I’ve often had to push students out of their comfort zone in order to get to the next level, but it’s greatly rewarding to watch them succeed.” He smiles to himself as he recites a quote from legendary football coach Tom Landry that he believes applies to his career. “I’ve spent my life getting someone to do what they don’t want to do, to achieve what they want to achieve.”

He also adds, “When I first came to Southwestern, the faculty handbook stated that you had to retire at age 65. Thank goodness they changed that! I’m 76, and can’t imagine missing out on even those past 11 years.”

We can’t either.

The Final Concert

On April 28, Dr. Sheppard will conduct his final concert in the Alma Thomas Theatre. He will lead the Southwestern Chorale in a performance of W. A. Mozart’s Requiem and J.S. Bach’s Cantata No. 4 Christ lag in Todesbanden.

The returning SU alumni, who will join the chorale for two rehearsals prior to the concert, will participate in the final numbers of the evening.

Event Details

Dr. Sheppard’s final concert is free and open to the public, but a ticket is required and they are expected to sell out. To secure your ticket, contact the Mathers Box Office.

In addition, to celebrate his retirement, a memory book is being developed for Dr. Sheppard. If you would like to contribute, please send your photos and notes to Julie Hudson at hudsonj@southwestern.edu.