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The International Shakuhachi Society

Shawn Renzoh Head


Head, Shawn Renzoh
Born August 12 1993

Composer & Shakuhachi

Award winning Composer, lecturer, and Master shakuhachi performer, Shawn Renzoh Head grew up in the Midwest and began western classical music studies at the age of 15. The path to Shawn's career in Classical music had an atypical beginning. The prelude to his career in music was heavily influence by his sister and their shared love of heavy metal. After starting his own band where he played lead guitar, he began to play classical music on the viola. He was classically trained by members of the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, and while performing, was given the opportunity to arrange a piece of rock music that he wrote for his high school orchestra. This adaptation of popular music to classical genre was a foreshadowing of his future career. He began composing his own distinct fusion of classical music and rock, and his music continues to be influenced by seemingly unlikely sources.

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.

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. Under the guidance of "Daishihan" (Grand Master), Michael Chikuzen (竹禅) Gould, Shawn has received the Shakuhachi name Renzoh (蓮蔵) for his accomplishments in Shakuhachi literature as well as a Shihan (Master) certification.He holds a Shihan from Gould and a undergraduate degree in composition (BM) from the Cleveland Institute of Music where he studied under the tutelage of Dr. Keith Fitch.


The International Shakuhachi Society - 2017