A common theme among composers of all genres is the use of personal, locational, and memorable connections as a catalyst for creative composition. Composer Paul John Stanbery is an archetype of this creative process with his 2014 release of SYMPHONY NO.2: FOUNDATIONS under Navona Records: an album that highlights the experiences that shaped his character. Just as Stanbery’s character influenced his music, so did it influence the PARMA team. Today we reflect on Stanbery’s career as an educator, conductor, and composer.

An educator for over 30 years, with 19 of those years spent as Music Director of All Saints Parish and School in Cincinnati OH, Stanbery was appointed music minister at the Hamilton OH Historic Presbytarian Church in 2002, a position he would also take on at Hamilton’s St. Peter in Chains Church and Zion Lutheran Church.

Stanbery’s career as an educator was met with a heavy focus on exposing youth to classical music. His work with the Butler Philharmonic Youth Orchestra was met with high praise as it helped form a successful artist project for children called “Mini-Maestros.” Under his direction, the Lima Symphony Orchestra presented educational concerts in schools, and the Butler Philharmonic Orchestra established four scholarship opportunities for young musicians.

SYMPHONY NO. 2: FOUNDATIONS - album cover

SYMPHONY NO. 2: FOUNDATIONS

Throughout an individual’s life, certain experiences, places, and people remain fundamental to his or her identity. As in a memoir, composer and conductor Paul John Stanbery depicts some of the experiences that have substantially influenced his character.

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In conjunction with his prowess as an educator, Stanbery led a fruitful life as a composer. His composition, SYMPHONY NO.2: FOUNDATIONS was nominated for a Pulitzer prize in music in 2012. The symphony premiered in October 2012 under the baton of Stanbery with the Hamilton-Fairfield Symphony Orchestra. Stanbery’s work was also featured on the Navona Records album FRESH DIMENSIONS, with his piece entitled Robert McCloskey: The Life for Me, and as conductor of the Stanbery Singers, his choral performances appeared on the Navona albums DASHING (2016) and CADENCE (2016).

In his final days, Stanbery was hard at work composing an oratorio entitled The Golden Door, which will be presented at Carnegie Hall in 2022. The patriotic piece encapsulates the powerful feelings of those arriving at Ellis Island in pursuit of the American dream. Stanbery spoke on the piece in one of his final Facebook posts.

“It’s all about the Ellis Island experience of about 100 years ago. It’s quite a tale. I may not hear it live, but I’ll be there, floating above the Carnegie Hall stage, making comments and mainly glorying at the wonder of it all.”

Paul Stanberry

Stanbery’s successor on the Butler Philharmonic Podium, Scott Woodward, will conduct the concert.

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FRESH DIMENSIONS - album cover

FRESH DIMENSIONS

Robert McCloskey: The Life For Me by Paul John Stanbery is most decidedly programmatic, and for good reason:  the music was composed for the Sam Ashworth film of the same name about the famous author of “Make Way For Ducklings.”

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