Stephen Heinemann is Passionate about Making Music

Bradley University music professor and jazz musician Stephen Heinemann

By Jayme Eng / Photography by Craig Stocks

For some, the idea of making a career of the same thing they’ve been doing since they were a child might sound a little boring, but for Stephen Heinemann, it’s been anything but dull. To Stephen, juggling his job as a professor, composing music, and participating in many different ensembles can be difficult at times, but he wouldn’t have it any other way.

Stephen Heinemann has worked for Bradley University as a music professor for 22 years, starting in 1991, and teaches music theory, composition, and clarinet. Music however, has been with him his whole life.

Stephen grew up with parents who were amateur musicians and encouraged him to pursue music. His sister had taken to the piano, and he the clarinet. “I probably wanted to do something different.” Later, Stephen began to play the alto saxophone when he started listening to jazz music and became inspired. He expanded his musical career by receiving the Bachelor of Music and Master of Arts degrees in composition from San Francisco State University. After teaching for several years in Arizona, Stephen received his Doctor of Musical Arts degree in composition from the University of Washington in Seattle before moving to Peoria to work at Bradley.

Stephen soon began to perform with a multitude of groups that include the Central Illinois Jazz Orchestra, Todd Kelly Quintet, and the Bradley Jazz Ensemble.  Through the Bradley Jazz Ensemble, Stephen has also played at Jazz festivals around Europe such as the Brienz, Tuscany, and Umbria Jazz Festivals. Recently, Stephen also helped create and debut Peoria Lunaire, a five faculty membered performance group. The first faculty permanent performance group at Bradley, Peoria Lunaire performs once a semester, debuting last November.

Not only does he perform, but Stephen also composes music for his ensembles, both classical as well as jazz. Composition, Stephen has said, is one of the most challenging aspects of his career. “It’s not about going over the same territory over and over again,” Stephen comments on the difficulties of composition in his opinion, “but redefining it.”

According to Stephen, the time it takes to compose music varies from each piece and every one is different. When referring to a recent jazz piece Stephen composed, it took him around two hours to complete it, but with others it can take months. With the longer compositions, Stephen likes to set up a general deadline not to settle, but to make sure he doesn’t overwork his pieces. “When you have a lot of time, it’s easy to keep going over the composition again and again to get it perfect.” Stephen gets his influences from many different forms of classical and jazz music.

When comparing the two, Stephen says that composing classical and jazz music are as expected, different. According to Stephen, orchestral and chamber performances strive toward an “idealized perfection of sound” while jazz is a little bit more lenient when it comes to the barriers of defined principles and the value of the “happy accident.” Despite their differences, both styles also share commonalities. “Both areas require enormous practice, discipline, and dedication” and Stephen enjoys both and the artistic freedom he has been able to pursue.

The Central Illinois Jazz Orchestra plays every first Wednesday of the month at the Fieldhouse. For more information about Stephen Heinemann, visit Also visit for upcoming concerts performed by the Central Illinois Jazz Orchestra as well as Todd Kelly Quintet. For more information about Peoria Lunaire, contact Stephen at (309) 677-2603.

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About Craig

I have a passion to create, and I'm fascinated with the tools and technologies of creativity. My process is to interpret the scene through a combination of camera position, light and post-processing to present my unique vision and share the emotion I feel.