Shirley J. Thompson is a multi-award winning English composer of Jamaican descent, artistic director, educator and cultural activist. Her work as a composer encompasses symphonies, ballets, operas, concertos, and other works for ensembles, as well as music for TV, film, and theatre. With her New Nation Rising, A 21st Century Symphony, composed in 2002 for HRH Queen Elizabeth II Golden Jubilee, Shirley became the first woman in Europe to have composed and conducted a symphony within the past 40 years.
Shirley’s music is performed and screened worldwide and often described as “beautiful and powerful” (Le Figaro). In 1994, Shirley launched and directed The Shirley Thompson Ensemble at London’s South Bank Centre, her own ensemble of instrumental soloists, singers, dancers and visual artists. It was with this group that she created ground-breaking compositions which seamlessly integrate contemporary classical music orchestration with improvisation, as well as fusing contemporary popular music and world music styles. An aficionado of dance, her co-scored ballet, PUSH, toured for 15 years to over 40 of the world’s opera houses, including La Scala Milan, the Mariinsky Theatre and the Sydney Opera House. Her music has also been commissioned for several royal engagements.
As an academic, Shirley J. Thompson PhD, DLitt, is Reader and Head of Composition and Performance at the University of Westminster. She has served for over 20 years on several national arts institutions, including the London Arts Board, the Arts Council of Great Britain and the Newham Council Cultural Forum. She was the first female executive of the Association of Professional Composers and now serves as an elected member of the Classical Music Executive for the British Academy of Song Writers, Composers and Authors. She has been named in the Evening Standard’s ‘Power List of Britain’s Top 100 Most Influential African and African Caribbean People from 2010 to 2019 and frequently in the Top 10.