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Stephen Brown: Biography

Composer's Life and Works

Stephen John Brown was born to working class parents in Nottingham, England. Due to the shortage of pilots at the beginning of World War II his father was able to become a RAF fighter pilot, training in Canada and Oklahoma. After the war, in order to better their fortunes, the family immigrated in 1952 to Montreal, Canada. His father was employed as a salesman of typewriters, and later, when the family move to Kitchener, Ontario in 1958, of office supplies and time equipment. Brown's parents purchased him an electric guitar when he was 13, and when he turned 16 he left school to further his musical career. He became a furniture mover.

Moving to Toronto that same year Brown eked out a living working various menial jobs and occasionally traveling throughout North America. When he turned 21 he became a taxi driver. This occupation helped support him, along with private music teaching and playing piano in traditional New Orleans style jazz bands, for the next 20 years. As an adult, in his twenties, he attended the Royal Conservatory of Music of Toronto. His teachers were Dr. Anthony Dawson ("call me Dr. Dawson until you graduate, then call me Tony") & Dr. Samuel Dolin - harmony, counterpoint, and composition, William Vaisey & James Agnagnoson ("let's go back a few grades") - piano, Maria Grunsky - recorder, Norbert Kraft (one brief informative year) - guitar, and Eugene Kash (nine very chatty lessons) - conducting. He graduated, ten years later, with diplomas in both composition and theory. In order to better his fortunes Brown moved in 1990 to Sidney, British Columbia. He became a furniture repairmen. Later, in 1993, he he began teaching at the Victoria Conservatory of Music. Brown became head of the Theory and Composition Department in 1996, a position he held until 2013. He then became Composer-in-Residence at the VCM until 2017. He has had two marriages and has four children.

Brown is an Associate of the Canadian Music Centre. He was a senior marker and examination designer for the Victoria Conservatory of Music and a senior examination designer and marker for the Royal Conservatory of Music of Toronto. He has twice served as a juror for the British Columbia Arts Council (performance & composition) and is a clinician and adjudicator.

His compositions include 6 symphonies, concerto for piano, flute, violin, and va two cello concerto, four song cycles, various orchestra works, a canticle for soprano, chorus and string orchestra, an elegy for soprano and string orchestra, a missa brevis, and many chamber and solo works including six suites for solo cello. He has taken a particular interest in pedagogical works, writing seven books of student pieces for piano, as well as, a book each for violin and flute. He has had many works performed at orchestral and solo concerts.

Performances include those by the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, the Vancouver and Victoria Symphony Orchestras and the Sidney Classical Orchestra in Sidney, British Columbia, of which he is the artistic director and conductor.

Besides his love of classical music, he takes an active interest in early jazz, country, and blues, singing and playing piano and guitar with Stephen Brown and the Bastion Jazz Band in Victoria, British Columbia.

Academic Experience

  • Composer-in-Residence at the Victoria Conservatory of Music  2013 - 2017
  • Theory and Composition Faculty Head of the Victoria Conservatory of Music 1995 - 2013
  • Victoria Conservatory of Music, post secondary Camosun Program, Harmony, Counterpoint, Analysis, Composition teacher, 1998-2017

  • Other Academic Experience 

    • Senior Examination Designer, Royal Conservatory of Music of Toronto, 1995 - 2010, RCM Harmony, Counterpoint, Analysis, and A.R.C.T. Composition and/or Theory.
    • Senior Theory Examination Designer and Marker, Victoria Conservatory of Music, 1996 - 2017.
    • Adjudicator - composition, Alberta Provincial Music Festival, Edmonton, Alberta, 2010, and many other festivals and competitions.
    • Syllabus Design Consultant, Harmony, Counterpoint, Analysis, and Bibliography, for the 2009 revision of the Theory and Composition Syllabus, Royal Conservatory of Music of Toronto
    • Member, College of Examiners, Royal Conservatory of Music of Toronto, 2002-2007
    • Jury Member, British Columbia Arts Council, Composition Awards, 2001
    • Syllabus Design Consultant and proof reader for the 2002 revision of the Theory and Composition Syllabus, Royal Conservatory of Music of Toronto
    • Jury Member, British Columbia Arts Council, Performance Awards, 1997
    • Opening Speaker and Main Clinician, Alberta Piano Teachers Annual Conference, Jasper, AB,1995

    Other Administrative Experience 

    • Artistic Directorate member, Victoria Conservatory of Music, 2003-2017
    • Board President, Sidney Concert Society, 1992-present
    • Artistic Director and Conductor, Sidney Classical Orchestra, 1992-present
    • Executive Management Team member, Victoria Conservatory of Music, 2007-2008
    • Board Member, British Columbia Registered Music Teachers' Assc., Victoria Branch, 1992-1994
    • Board Member, Ontario Registered Music Teachers' Assc., Central Toronto Branch, 1987-1989


    • Theory Diploma, Royal Conservatory of Music of Toronto, 1986
    • Composition Diploma, Royal Conservatory of Music of Toronto, 1984
    • Composition and theory studies with Samuel Dolin and Anthony Dawson, piano with James Anagnoson and William Vaisey, guitar with Norbert Kraft, recorder with Maria Grunsky, and conducting with Eugene Kash

    Professional Affiliations 

    • Victoria Conservatory of Music, 1994-2017
    • Sidney and North Saanich Arts Council, 1992-2021
    • Sidney Concert Society, 1992-Present
    • Royal Canadian Legion, 1992-Present
    • Canadian Registered Music Teachers' Assc., Ont. and B.C., 1986-Present
    • SOCAN, 1982-Present
    • American Federation of Musicians, Toronto, Ont. and Victoria, B.C. Branches, 1976-Present

    Online Theory Lessons (Distance Learning)

    Stephen Brown has extensive experience as a theory and composition teacher. He was a senior examination syllabi designer for the Royal Conservatory of Music of Toronto and the Theory and Composition Faculty Head at the Victoria Conservatory of Music, where he oversaw the designing and marking of all theoretical examinations. Also at the Victoria Conservatory, he has taught classes in all the theoretical subjects, has many private students in theory and composition, and was the Camosun College instructor in harmony, counterpoint and analysis. For further information on Stephen's qualifications please see the Academic Experience section of this page.

    If you wish to study theory online (distance learning) with Stephen Brown the following courses may be taken in preparation for the Royal Conservatory of Music of Toronto examinations:

    Rudiments Complete, Harmony and Counterpoint 9, 10, & ARCT, and ARCT Analysis and the ARCT in Composition and/or Theory.

    Fees: $60 per lesson, plus any necessary textbooks (obtained by the student). Snail mail lessons are available as well but postage fees may apply.

    How Your Online Lessons Work

    1) Student submits completed assignments by email 2 days in advance of Zoom lesson.

    2) Teacher marks the assignments and returns them by email with comments and also sends new assignments.

    3) Student and Teacher have a Zoom lesson to discuss the completed assignments and the new assignments.

    The $60 per lesson flat rate includes all of the above. On average, depending on the grade level and subject, a lesson will take 30 - 45 minutes to mark followed by a 20 - 45 minute Zoom meeting. .

    Rudiments Complete, Harmony & Counterpoint, and Analysis courses are equal to 30 private lessons, each 1/2 hour long, at $20 per lesson ($40 an hour), which is the equivalent of a two semester (one year) course. Assignments are submitted by email and/or snail mail. Assignments will be marked within a week, excluding the traditional holidays and the instructor's summer holiday, and returned email and/or snail mail. The instructor is available for consultation by email or telephone most mornings. Correspondence students have two years to complete a course from their registration date.

    Courses are also available in Orchestration, Traditional Composition (Renaissance Counterpoint, Baroque Harmony and Counterpoint which includes fugal composition, Classical Harmony and Counterpoint which includes sonata composition, Romantic Harmony and Counterpoint which includes lieder composition and various lyric piano forms) and Post 1900 Composition (Debussy to the present). The above courses may prepare a student for the ARCT in Composition and/or Theory.

    All fees are in Canadian dollars.

    Please direct inquiries to Stephen Brown