Reviewers have described Randall Shinn’s music as “lyrical,” “compelling,” and “lusciously beautiful.” His compositions range in mood from witty to fiercely passionate, and reviewers have praised their expressive power, calling them “stunning” and “spell-binding.”
His works are primarily rooted in the traditions of Western art music. But he loves playing with language, and his works often incorporate elements connected to folk and popular traditions. This mixture of influences has led to what reviewer called “a sound that is uniquely his.”
Trained as a performer (French horn), Shinn was self-taught as a composer until he entered the doctoral program at the University of Illinois. There he studied primarily with Ben Johnston who encouraged Shinn to continue developing distinctive ways of integrating his interests in art, popular, and folk music.
After completing his doctorate, he taught for three years at the University of New Orleans, and then joined the faculty of Arizona State University. He retired early from university teaching in 2006 to compose full time.
His orchestral music has been performed by the Phoenix Symphony, San Jose Chamber Orchestra, ProMusica Chamber Orchestra of Columbus, Mesa Symphony, Flagstaff Symphony, and Arizona State University. His operas have been staged by Arizona State University, New Mexico State University, University of Colorado, and workshopped by Utah Festival Opera. His choral, vocal, and chamber works have been performed in the United States and Europe. He has received support from the National Endowment for the Arts (as both librettist and composer), the Arizona Commission on the Arts, and ASCAP. Shinn has had composer residencies at New Mexico State University, the University of Colorado, Montalvo, Ucross, and Brush Creek Ranch.
As a writer Shinn has written original librettos for three operas, and for two years was the chief correspondent for DeepGlamour.net.