Lem began his career in graduate school as a guitarist and vocalist in Paradise lost and Regained a work created by Dr. Eva Jessey—the acclaimed choral director for George Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess. Lem also appeared with Dr. Jessey in a CBS “Special Segment” and became a soloist in the Dr. Eva Jessey Choir before embarking on his solo career.
Drawing upon his academic experience and his background in contemporary music, Sheppard created a unique performance style and a vibrant brand of traditional music. He has the ability to move seamlessly from blues, spirituals, folk and music from the gilded age. Audiences of all ages engage with Lem’s modern take on traditional music interspersed with folklore, storytelling, and history. He composed and performed the soundtrack to the PBS documentary Black White & Brown, has received awards from The Kansas Folklore Society as well as The Oklahoma Blues Hall of Fame and was a National finalist in the Telluride Acoustic Blues Challenge. Lem performed in South Africa at The National Eisteddfod, toured Brazil under the auspices of the US Embassy and a Congressional Committee selected him to represent Kansas at the Kennedy Center on the Millennium Stage. From 2001 to 2013 lem performed school shows across the United States. He presented nearly 200 school shows in over 40 states per year.
The musical activities of African Americans from about 1860 to 1920 are part of an untold story in Kansas history. They were active in; string bands, mandolin quartets, cornet bands, orchestras and as itinerant musicians and jubilee singers. They performed at venues in many cities as well as in private homes of the elite and “furnished” music for; barn dances, fairs, weddings and civic events. Lem Sheppard will be presenting a program of this music taken from the pages of Kansas history. Some of the songs will be familiar as they were popular songs of the day, but the people and places are a unique chapter in Kansas history.