Jonathan Sheffer is a Grammy-nominated composer and conductor whose diverse career in music spans the worlds of classical, opera, dance, and film and television. Born in New York City, Sheffer graduated from Harvard University, where his teachers included Leonard Bernstein, and later attended The Juilliard Extension School and the Aspen School of Music.

Sheffer’s range of works comprises television and feature film scores, works for orchestra, solo piano, concertos, musicals, and short operas. In addition to several scores for Hollywood films, including Encino Man, Pure Luck, A Shallow Grave and others, his most recent films include the documentaries Mann v. Ford (HBO) and the German/Israeli film, The Decent One, which premiered at the Berlin Film Festival. He has also served as conductor for many major films, including Alien 3, Batman Forever, Batman & Robin, Batman Returns, Interview With The Vampire, Across The Universe, and many more.

His most recent orchestral commission was a work for children, The Conference of the Birds, which had its premiere in 2014 at the Cabrillo Festival, conducted by Marin Alsop. His opera, Blood on the Dining Room Floor, produced off-Broadway in 2000 and revived several times since, received the Richard Rodgers Production Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters and was the focus of a Guggenheim Works & Process series event. He has had fellowships at both Yaddo and The MacDowell Colony, and in 2003 he was a Visiting Artist at the American Academy in Rome.

Sheffer made his conducting debut with the San Diego Symphony in 1991. In 1995 he founded the Eos Orchestra in New York, receiving an ASCAP Adventurous Programming Award as a laboratory of new programming ideas. Eos toured nationally, performed at the White House and was the focus of a PBS special, and the recipient of a Grammy nomination. In 2001, he was invited by a group of musicians and arts donors from Cleveland to lead a new organization with a similar mission. The result was Red {an orchestra}, which performed similar programs for six seasons.

In addition to Eos and Red, he has conducted orchestras, opera, dance, and at various festivals, including the New York City Opera, The Spoleto Festival (Italy), and the Ravinia Festival. Sheffer has conducted the American Ballet Theatre at the Metropolitan Opera, the Mark Morris Dance Company at BAM, and in 1996, he led the Scottish Chamber Orchestra with the Martha Graham Dance Company at the Edinburgh Festival.

As part of his activities in arts and culture, philanthropy, and political action, Sheffer has been an active political fundraiser and advocate for the arts in government. He has served on the boards of Directors of VH1 Save The Music, the New York City Opera, and was the appointee of the New York City Council to the Board of Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts. He is currently a Councilmember of the New York State Council on the Arts.


Four Ten-Minute Operas

Release Date: March 1, 2024
Catalog Number: NV6610
21st Century
Navona Records is pleased to present FOUR TEN-MINUTE OPERAS from composer Jonathan Sheffer, a collection of works spanning a variety of themes from American history and culture. Performed by the Royal Scottish National Orchestra and emerging UK artists, this release offers operatic explorations into perspectives from the American Civil War, pitfalls of dating in the digital age, religious commentary in the face of tragedy, and a dramatic retelling of a fatal baseball pitch. Conducted by Sheffer himself, each of these 10-minute operas tells an engaging tale that’s sure to strike a chord.

Bowed Colors 2

Release Date: April 14, 2023
Catalog Number: NV6517
21st Century
Solo Instrumental
On BOWED COLORS 2, violist Brett Deubner tackles a vibrant collection of Bach-inspired compositions for the viola. A bonafide virtuoso of international acclaim, Deubner set his sights on the works of seven American composers, and the result is a dynamic album of showstoppers for the alto voice of the string family. Baroque structure unites with contemporary fervor in this program, and Deubner's solo viola (occasionally accompanied by piano) entwines both, brimming with vigor and precision.

Evolutionary Spirits

Release Date: June 28, 2019
Catalog Number: NV6218
21st Century
Vocal Music
EVOLUTIONARY SPIRITS brings together the artistry of Grammy Award-winning chamber choir The Crossing with innovative works of six contemporary composers. Ranging from songs of praise from the Biblical era to present day, and from contemporary poetry to the reimagining of a Shakespearean sonnet, EVOLUTIONARY SPIRITS explores humanity in all its facets.

The Conference of the Birds

Release Date: April 8, 2016
Catalog Number: NV6037
21st Century
Depicting 12th-century Persian poet Farid ud-Din Attar’s dramatic narrative, New York-based composer and GRAMMY-nominated conductor Jonathan Sheffer presents his orchestral work The Conference of the Birds, commissioned for the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music, on Navona Records. Attar’s poem of the same name is a journey of transformation and conviction, in which the birds of the world seek to find an illustrious leader, ultimately ending with new insight into their spiritual identities. The allegory portrays our own doubts, fears, and faults, how we confront these issues, and how we seek to understand identity and our relationships with other humans, the natural world, and what lies beyond.

Concerto For Soprano Saxophone & Orchestra

Release Date: March 11, 2016
Catalog Number: NV6032
21st Century
I met the Swedish saxophonist Anders Paulsson in the early 90s through my friend and mentor John Corigliano. Anders, always a very entrepreneurial sort of musician, was to be the focus of a 1996 concert on Swedish Public Television. Fortunately for me, the program included funding for a commission of a new concerto, and Anders kindly asked me to compose something for soprano sax and large orchestra.