Position: Dean; Professor, Music

Location: Ruebush 108-D

Phone: (540) 542-6201


Employed Since: 2009

Conservatory Professional Highlights:

Michael Stepniak is a broadly trained artist and educator.

As Dean at Shenandoah Conservatory, Stepniak oversees a dynamic community: a higher education unit of over 120 faculty and close to 750 undergraduate and graduate students enrolled in 28 degree programs; an Arts Academy serving approximately 1,200 students; a performance season and venues serving over 28,000 patrons each year; and 52 operational budgets. Since beginning his work as dean in 2009, Stepniak has been privileged to work with Conservatory faculty and students and broader University leadership in radically increasing the Conservatory’s profile while simultaneously strengthening its historical commitment to providing an exceptionally nurturing community for young artists.

As a soloist and chamber musician, Stepniak has performed in major concert halls and venues in 11 countries, been featured on National Public Radio, recorded for the Centaur Records label, performed frequently with the Mendelssohn Piano Trio, as a member of the National Philharmonic String Quartet, the Contemporary Music Forum, and the Razumovsky String Quartet, and has collaborated with various leading chamber musicians, ranging from Ann Schein, Earl Carlyss, and Lory Wallfisch, to Arlo Guthrie. Papers such as The Washington Post have referred to his playing as tremendously poised and transcendent.

Stepniak completed interdisciplinary doctoral studies in aesthetics, education, and leadership at Harvard University (where he won the Spencer Fellowship and Entering Award), and graduate studies in viola at Peabody Conservatory (where he won the Sidney Friedberg Prize), in musicology at Northwestern University (where he was appointed to the alpha chapter of Pi Kappa Lambda) and in violin at New England Conservatory (where he was leader of the Honors Quartet). After leaving his native Australia at 15 for studies in Canada, he completed his undergraduate studies in the United States with high distinction in Music and English at Atlantic Union College.

Stepniak maintains an active role in arts education at the national and international level. He has served on the board of directors of the International Council of Fine Arts Deans, and has chaired the global connections taskforce in that same body. Beyond the arts, Stepniak has worked with college and university presidents and senior leadership from Rice University to Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government on issues ranging from leadership development and arts initiatives, to curriculum reviews and strategic planning.

As an artist, Stepniak is connected to an exceptionally rich musical heritage through studies with foremost chamber musicians and soloists. As leader of New England Conservatory’s Honors Quartet, the Polish-Australian Stepniak worked extensively with Eugene Lehner, longtime member of the legendary Kolisch Quartet (which premiered chamber works for Schoenberg, Berg, Webern, and Bartók), and former student at Budapest’s Royal Conservatory of Music of Zoltán Kodály and Jenő Hubay.

As principal violist with the Peabody Conservatory symphony orchestra and violist with the Razumovsky Quartet, Stepniak studied chamber music with Earl Carlyss, a 20-year member of the Juilliard Quartet and former student of Ivan Galamian and the Paris Conservatoire’s Roland Charmy and Jacques Février. He also received coachings at Peabody from Berl Senofsky, a former student of Louis Persinger and Ivan Galamian.

Stepniak’s other primary teachers include violinst/composer/pianist Virginia-Gene Rittenhouse (former student of Louis Persinger, Nadia Boulanger, and Leon Fleisher) and violinist James Buswell (former student of Ivan Galamian). His viola training at Peabody Conservatory included work as the teaching assistant to Victoria Chiang (a former student of Heidi Castleman and Dorothy DeLay). Stepniak’s musicianship is further informed by a breadth of intellectual training from leading music theorists, musicologists, and ethnomusicologists including Robert Levin, Theodore Karp, and Paul Berliner.

Prior to joining Shenandoah, Stepniak served at Adelphi University as Associate Dean of Performing Arts. Reporting to the Dean of the College of Arts & Sciences, he was responsible for overseeing the further development of the Music, Dance, and Theatre departments, and was the director of Adelphi’s new Performing Arts Center, overseeing the successful launch and operationalization of a $30M state-of-the-art facility.

He is married to Anne Schempp and is the proud father of Marianna, Caroline, and Tristan.

Educational History:

B.A., Atlantic Union College; M.M., Northwestern University; M.M., Peabody Conservatory at Johns Hopkins University; Ed.D., Harvard University Graduate School of Education

Fields of Expertise:

Dean and Professor of Music (Music Performance, Arts Education, Aesthetic Philosophy)