Pronunciation: SHEE-AHN or SHR-AHN (世 安)
Pronouns: they/them/theirs or he/him/his
Shi-An Costello (b. 1987) is a musician with deep roots in contemporary art practices. A versatile pianist, composer and sound artist, Shi-An has been described as a “precise, engaged, welcoming performer, unafraid of deep ambiguities“ (The Reader), “in such spare textures and hushed dynamics, the smallest development seems seismic” (Chicago Classical Review), and on his piano interpretations of Shostakovitch and Schumann, “a tour de force ... steely and granitic [Preludes and Fugues, Op. 87]” and “dreamy and sensitive [Davidsbundlertanze]” (Boston Musical Intelligencer).
A proud mixed race Asian American of Taiwanese, Chinese and Irish descent, Shi-An recently composed and performed the orient, a large scale solo piano work about race and heritage, presented in collaboration with Asian Americans Advancing Justice - Chicago as part of the 2023 Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. In a feature article in The Reader, writer Hannah Edgar summarizes the work: "The Orient originated in an insidious earworm: the three-pitch, nine-note 'Asian riff,' deployed as racial caricature in pop culture for more than a century. Instead of pushing it out of his head, Costello leaned into his discomfort, using the riff to build out what would become The Orient [...] Throughout The Orient, Costello takes the riff as a jumping-off point to document cultural and historical touchstones of the Asian American experience."
As a composer, Shi-An has received commissions from Access Contemporary Music, High Concept Labs, The Response Project, Chromic, The _____ Experiment, masso quartet, Missing Piece, artist G. Funo O’Kain. violinist Marina Kifferstein, vocalist Sarah Albu, harpsichordist Francis Yun, and pianists Jonathan Hannau, Cacie Miller, and Magnus Villanueva. His music has been programmed by Sandra Wright Shen, International Contemporary Ensemble (I.C.E.), Thin Edge New Music Collective, Timepoint Ensemble, ThingNY and the Conservatoire de musique de Lausanne. Shi-An’s compositions have been featured at Contemporary Arts Center, Tribeca New Music New York, Chicago Cultural Center, Garth Newel Music Center, Asian Improv Arts Midwest, Université de Montréal, Pollack Hall and Redpath Hall of McGill University, Dalhousie University, University of Richmond, Constellation Chicago and Array Music Toronto.
Hailed by Philippe Leroux as “Shi-An finds the depth in every note” and the late Frederic Rzewski as “a winner,” Shi-An, as a pianist, has worked personally with over 150 composers from all over the world in solo, ensemble and chamber settings. Shi-An has commissioned new works by Viet Cuong, Danny Clay, Igor Santos, Alex Temple, Ana Paola Santillan Alcocer, AJ Santillan, morgan krauss, Jimmie Leblanc, David Reminick, Marielle Groven, Kurt Isaacson, and has worked personally with composers Philippe Leroux, Frederic Rzewski, Jerome Kitzke, Serge Provost, Keeril Makan, Marti Epstein, Anthony Cheung, James O’Callaghan, Eliza Brown, and many other brilliant musical minds from around the world.
A dedicated arts advocate and administrator, Costello is the Founder and Executive Director of Keymore, a newly forming educational initiative in Chicago, and serves on the Board of Directors of New Music Chicago and The _____ Experiment. Previously, Costello founded and directed the Morton Feldman Chamber Players (MFCP) from 2013-2017, founded and served as artistic director of Vox Humana collective of speaking musicians from 2011-2013, and co-founded and served as president of Cadre composer collective at Columbia College from 2008-2010. He has also curated events at Experimental Sound Studio, Narloch Piano Studio, Marvin Duchow Music Library of McGill University, and Cathédrale Christ Church (Montreal).
Costello previously held position as Visiting Artist and Piano Faculty at Boston Conservatory at Berklee and New Music School. He has been a guest artist lecturer at numerous universities and institutions across North America. He holds degrees in Music Composition and Performance from Columbia College and the Schulich School of Music of McGill University.
Costello has received generous project support from the Conseil des Arts du Canada, Foundation for Contemporary Arts, Chicago Department of Cultural and Special Events, Cliff Dwellers Club, Amphion Foundation, American Music Project, and the Walder Foundation.