Stephen Yarbrough began his musical career as a flutist with the Air Force Academy Band outside of Colorado Springs, Colorado. After four years of service he returned to his Alma Mater, The University of Oklahoma, and took up the study of composition with Michael Hennagin, a student of Aaron Copland. In 1982 he took a teaching position in Theory/Composition at the University of South Dakota, and was awarded his Doctor of Musical Arts in Composition in 1983 from the University of Oklahoma. He is now in his twenty-ninth year of teaching at USD, and has been designated Composer in Residence to the College of Fine Arts.
In 1989 Dr. Yarbrough was commissioned by the Black Hills Chamber Music Society and the South Dakota Arts council to compose and conduct a choral/orchestral work to celebrate the South Dakota State Centennial. The result was a six-movement piece, Dakota Suite, which Yarbrough conducted premiere performances of with the Black Hills Chamber Music Society Chorus and the Black Hills Symphony Orchestra. The South Dakota Symphony Orchestra has premiered a number of his orchestral works, including With the Voice of Joy and Praise, Alleluias for Orchestra, the Plains-Portraits of a Landscape, Prairie Triptych, Inaugural Fanfare, Angel's Dances, and Fanfare Noel. Alleluias for Orchestra has been chosen by the South Dakota Symphony Orchestra s their official song. In 2001 Alleluias for Orchestra was conducted by Maestro Henry Charles Smith in a Christmas performance by the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington, D.C. In 2004 Dr. Yarbrough was the recipient of the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and the National Symphony Orchestra's American Residency Composer Commission from the state of South Dakota. Members of the National Symphony Orchestra premiered his instrumental octet, Dakota Diary at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. in September 2008. His orchestral work Angel's Dances was chosen, also in 2008, by the Welch's Grape Juice Company as the music for their national TV commercials with Food Network star Alton Brown. Those commercials are still on the air for the 2010-2011 season. Further in 2008, nationally known mezzo-soprano Emily Lodine premiered Yarbrough's Kenyon Songs-Seven Poems of Jane Kenyon with conductor Delta David Gier and the South Dakota Symphony Chamber Orchestra at the Sounds of South Dakota Vocal Showcase. He has also written and premiered three works for St. Joseph's Cathedral's annual Christmas At the Cathedral concerts (Sioux Falls, South Dakota), with nationally and internationally know singers Emily Lodine and Scott Piper with the South Dakota Symphony Chamber Orchestra (2007-2009).
Yarbrough has been awarded numerous grants, including an Emerging Artist Fellowship, and Artists Career Development Grant, and Artists Project Grant (three times), and an Artists Fellowship Grant (2010), all from the South Dakota Arts Council. He has three times received University of South Dakota Faculty Development Grants, and was the winner of two South Dakota Music Teachers Association Composition Commission Competitions. He has been th4e recipient of four Bush Foundation Grants, has won sixteen ASCAP Standard Awards for performances of his compositions, and has twice been a lobbyist for ASCAP in Washington, D.C. His first CD, Alleluias for Orchestra, won second place for the Best Contemporary Classical Music CD of the Year at the 2009 JPF (Just Plain Folks) Awards Ceremony in Nashville, TN. His After School, a movement of his Prairie Triptych, won second place for Best Contemporary Classical Song of the Year at the same ceremony.
Dr. Yarbrough's compositions have been performed by such diverse groups as the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington, D.C. (twice), the Minnesota Orchestra, the South Dakota Symphony Orchestra, the Bloomington Symphony Orchestra of Bloomington, Minnesota, the St. Olaf College Orchestra, the Dallas Youth Symphony, the Allen Texas Philharmonic, the Green Bay Youth Symphony, the Black Hills Symphony, the Northwest Iowa Symphony Orchestra, the Augustana College Women's Choir, the Black Hills Chamber Music Society Chorus, the Air Force Academy Band, the Interlochen Center for the Arts High School Orchestra, the All-State Orchestras of Arizona, Iowa, Utah, Minnesota, Nebraska, Georgia, Tennessee, Nevada, Montana, Ohio, Illinois, North Dakota, and South Dakota.
Yarbrough's Music has been published by TRN Music Publishers, Neil A. Kjos Music Company, National Music Publishers, Ars Nova Press, and his own company, Sycamore Press. His CD Alleluias for Orchestra is available from the iTunes, the CD Baby website, or from the composer himself. 2011 will mark the debut of his second CD, All Love Unbounded.
Stephen Yarbrough is a writer member and publisher member of ASCAP, the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers.