Robert Shafer, recognized as one of America’s major choral conductors, has served as Artistic Director of the City Choir of Washington since its launch in September 2007. For more than fifty years, Maestro Shafer has served the Washington, DC area as a choral conductor, composer, educator, and church musician. He was the Music Director of The Washington Chorus for more than thirty-five years. In February 2000, he was honored by the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences with a GRAMMY® Award for Best Choral Performance for a live concert recording of Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem.
Shafer prepared The Washington Chorus for the GRAMMY® Award-winning recording of John Corigliano’s Of Rage and Remembrance with Leonard Slatkin and The National Symphony Orchestra and for the GRAMMY® Award-nominated compact disc and film soundtrack recording of Mussorgsky’s Boris Godunov with Mstislav Rostropovich and The National Symphony Orchestra. Shafer has prepared choruses for many of the world’s leading conductors, including Sir Neville Marriner, Seiji Ozawa, Zdenek Macal, Christopher Warren-Green, Charles Dutoit, Kent Nagano, Mstislav Rostropovich, and Leonard Slatkin. He has guest-conducted The National Symphony Orchestra on several occasions and also conducted choral performances for NBC national telecasts. In addition, he has conducted numerous European concert tours with the choral groups that he has prepared.
A student of the distinguished Nadia Boulanger, Shafer has been noted for his own compositions, including his setting of Lux Aeterna, which was premiered in April 2009. In 1969, he won first prize in composition at the American Conservatory, Fontainebleau, France, and his works have been performed throughout the United States and Europe. When he served as music director of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, he composed and conducted a setting of Tu es Petrus in honor of Pope John Paul’s 1979 visit to Washington, DC. Another setting of Tu es Petrus, which he wrote for the Children’s Chorus of Washington, was published by Boosey & Hawkes. He also composed and conducted a setting of Nunc Dimittisfor the funeral of the Honorable Elliot Richardson, which was held at Washington National Cathedral. Recently, Maestro Shafer was commissioned to compose a new work in celebration of the 150th anniversary of Hope College in Holland, Michigan, which coincided with the opening of a new Arts Complex at the college.
An influential teacher, Shafer taught at James Madison High School from 1968-1975, producing one of the finest madrigal groups in the country. He served as Artist-in-Residence and Professor of Music at the Conservatory of Music of Shenandoah University in Winchester, Virginia, from 1983 until his retirement in 2016. In 1989, Shafer was honored by the Virginia Council on Higher Education with an Outstanding Faculty Award for his outstanding public service, research, and teaching, the first teacher in the arts to receive this award. In June 2011, the Choralis Foundation Board of Directors and Artistic Director Gretchen Kuhrmann named Robert Shafer as the winner of the 2nd Annual Greater Washington DC Area Choral Excellence Award. This award is given to a person or organization that has made significant contributions to the art of choral singing in the greater DC metropolitan area.