Distinguished Alumnus
Class of 2015
Roger Shields

AHS Class of 1961

Roger Shields was born in Arcola on June 6, 1943, the son of Mr. and Mrs. Andrew J. Shields. He attended Arcola schools, graduating from high school in 1961. While at Arcola High School, Roger served on the Torch and Arco-Lite staffs, was a member of the National Honor Society, and was honored with The American Legion award.

Roger displayed prodigious musical talents at an early age. He began playing the piano and composing at the age of four. A child prodigy, he was soon giving recitals of Chopin Sonatas and the complete Etudes. By the age of twelve, he had produced an opera, two piano concerti, and other works for the piano, violin, voice and flute. While in grade school, Roger was performing a great deal in the Midwest, including several performances in Chicago. His talent attracted the attention of Soulima Stravinsky, son of composer Igor Stravinsky, who took him under his wing as his only private student ever, and began preparing him for a professional concert career.

Following high school graduation, Roger enrolled for continued study with Stravinsky at the University of Illinois. Upon graduation, he became the sole recipient of the Kinley Award, which is given to only one individual in the entire country who is enrolled in any College of Fine and Applied Arts. This award enabled Shields to study and perform in Paris and Germany for a year, allowing him to meet many of the world’s greatest performers and artists who influenced his entire life.

Upon his return to the United States, Shields entered the Master and Doctoral Programs in Performance at the U of I. He was awarded the Creative and Performing Arts Fellowship, of which only one is given in the entire College of Fine and Applied Arts.

After finishing his doctoral course work, Shields moved to the East Coast where he was the Artist-in-Residence for the State University System of New York, working directly under Lukas Foss, the internationally celebrated pianist, composer and conductor. As a lecturer-fellow, he also taught several courses on the music of Bach and Liszt.

He soloed in major cities in the United States, Canada, and also in Europe, where he was a major international prizewinner: As a chamber musician Shields collaborated with many prominent artists and appeared regularly in New York City’s Carnegie Recital Hall.

As Artistic Director of the East European Concert Series, he was awarded grants from The National Endowment for the Arts and The New York State Arts Council. His concerts were received with glowing reviews by major metropolitan newspapers, including the Sunday New York Times.

In the early 1970s, Shields was offered a recording contract with Vox-Turnabout Records of New York City, one of the world’s largest commercial record companies. His first albums largely featured works by American composers such as Copland, McDowell, Joplin and Gershwin. Shields possessed a vast repertoire, which included major composers of the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries, and also avant-garde composers. The international press in Europe and the U.S. heralded these performances. Major composers, including Soulima Stravinsky and Pulitzer Prizewinning composer George Perle, wrote piano works dedicated to Shields.

Shields developed a reputation in the East Coast music world as one of the most gifted pianists of his generation. He continued to record and concertize while accepting the position of Artist-in-Residence for the North Carolina State Arts Council. As such, he played literally hundreds of concerts throughout North Carolina and the Eastern seaboard.

Shields published several articles on Horowitz and Ragtime, and has given numerous interviews over the years on radio and television.

In the early 1980s, the Stravinsky family asked him to be the artistic and executive director of an international piano competition/festival for children and young adults, The Stravinsky Awards, to be held in Champaign-Urbana on the U of I campus. The first awards took place in 1985. The competition grew to attract hundreds of young pianists from China, Russia, Vietnam, France, Germany, England, Switzerland, Italy, Spain, Austria, South America, Canada, and throughout the United States.

Shields now works privately with a few gifted pianists, many of whom are consistent winners in major competitions. He has served on the Illinois Arts Council and the Champaign-Urbana Symphony Board of Directors.

Shields and his wife, Andrea, an artist, live in a Civil War period home in West Champaign, Illinois. They both enjoy gardening, preserving, antiquing and the ongoing restoration of their home.

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Last Revision November 11, 2017