Virtuoso Cellist, Composer, Producer, Inventor – Profile by Elizabeth Shea
There’s a playful glint in Philip Sheppard’s eyes that draws you in the moment you meet him. He is understated, usually in jeans, a coffee in hand, a slight grin on his face. His 300-year-old cello casually at his feet. His journal, swollen with handwritten notes and sketches of musical works in progress, always at easy reach. His laugh is warm, his humor dryly British, his mind working at an allegro pace. The man whose compositions form the musical pulse to powerful films and global events, the man whose cello simply stuns, is exactly how you hoped he’d be.
Philip’s fascination with music began at age 3 when he was found to have perfect pitch. Naturally, his response was to play the largest and heaviest instrument he could handle: the cello. By the age of 10, he was touring the U.S., and at 17, he was awarded a scholarship to the Royal Academy of Music, where he trained in cello and composition, and later became Professor. Today, he is known as one of the world’s foremost cellists and in-demand soundtrack composers.
Perhaps because he was encouraged to play the cello at such a young age, Philip has always approached music as play, viewing notes as “liquid architecture” to spur different sounds, emotion and visual constructs. This unorthodox approach to composition has resulted in more than 30 film, television and theatrical scores as well as the invention of Compose Yourself, a top-selling, award-winning children’s music game that the Wall Street Journal touted above the fold.
Philip’s collaborations reflect the diversity in his musical interests and personal passions. Recently, his work in a Star Wars The Force Awakens trailer made his bucket list a little lighter, and his latest project brought him to the base of the Eiffel Tower where he opened the Paris Global Climate Summit with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Amazonian Chief Raoni looking on.
Philip teamed up with Cirque du Soleil to shine the spotlight on global water needs, composed the original soundtrack to the epic BBC series Human Universe, scored the catwalk for Alexander McQueen and wrote the strings for the #1 album Like Clockwork by Queens of the Stone Age. And he can rock an electric cello like none other – just ask David Bowie. Over the years, he’s also worked with Jarvis Cocker, Jeff Buckley, John Legend, Scott Walker, Suzanne Vega, UNKLE, Pretty Lights and virtuoso percussionist Evelyn Glennie.
A popular speaker at innovation conferences around the globe such as C2MTL, The EG, and TTI Vanguard, Philip delivers rousing keynotes about the intersection of music and data, innate musical ability within all of us, and other topics that connect music to creativity, tech and introspection. Often voted best speaker, his use of group games and exercises to instantly produce fully-fledged compositions remains a perennial favorite.
Large-scale – and complex – productions are another of Philip’s fortes. For the 2012 London Olympics, he was given 52 hours to re-score and record all 206 of the world’s national anthems with the London Philharmonic Orchestra. His portfolio also includes the Tour de France, the Rugby World Cup, the 2008 Beijing Olympics, and New Year’s Eve at the world’s tallest building in Dubai.
Philip was honored with BBC’s Music Production of the Year for The Manchester Passion and was recently named as one of Origin Magazine’s “Top 100 Creatives in the U.S.” He is the recipient of an RAM Fellowship, a lifetime achievement award from the Royal Academy of Music for his services to music and education.
Philip’s also a dad and a former pub quiz champion who draws great inspiration and solace from books. Fittingly, his writing and recording studio is designed as a library and is on the site of esteemed children’s author Enid Blyton’s house.